The Kitchen Sink is one of those plays that could be done very well, or very badly. Filled with disjointed dialogues and unfinished sentences, Tom Wells’ script is deliberately naturalistic. Performed as well as it is in this Crex Theatre production at The White Lion, both what is said and what isn’t are equally important. What on paper looks like a very dull script, with too many ums, errs and pauses, beautifully comes to life through a skilled cast.
It’s the lifelike nature of it all that makes this play surprisingly riveting. All of the cast members are similarly aged. It is necessary to overlook this in order to grasp who is whom: there’s Mum, there’s Dad, their son, their daughter, and their daughter’s on/off boyfriend. The narrative spans the space of almost a year, starting in early spring and working its way through to Christmas. In just a few months, there are an incredible number of changes in this Yorkshire family’s lives. By the end, the audience remains unsure what direction the characters’ futures will go. The play is subtle, save for a few outbursts (each character has one), and with all the action resolutely set in the family kitchen, it relies on the dialogue to flesh out details of what goes on outside this one room.
Given the play’s title and setting, Martin (Jo Allan), the man of the house, is very unaggressive and not very shouty at all, even when wife Kath (Olivia Race) yanks his ‘tea’ (what some call ‘dinner’, others call ‘supper’, and still others call ‘tea’) away from him in order to get his attention. Kath is one in a million: a woman who can get between a man and his tea and emerge unscathed. She’s a loving and deeply caring mother; I would have loved to have had such an understanding and sympathetic parent. Billy (Sam McKay), their son, is very likeable, even if he is a self-confessed ‘wimp’ – I got the impression he was a ‘chip off the old block’, as it were.
Sophie (Emilie Aspeling), Martin and Kath’s daughter, finds herself depressingly (from her perspective, at least) assisting her father’s milkman duties, at least as a temporary measure, after her seemingly unstoppable ascent to ju-jitsu success hits the floor following an outburst that landed her examiner in casualty. Needless to say, she did not pass the examination. The coastal erosion being sustained in this seaside town in Yorkshire acts as a metaphor for the disintegration of Martin’s milk float, however, and when it is a write-off after it breaks down yet again, the toll it takes on this quarter-century milkman is clearly heavy.
It’s in the character of Pete (Rob Collins), however, that we see both hilarity and depth of emotion in equal – and bountiful – measure. He is not the most confident of people, and his gentle approach in trying to woo Sophie is repeatedly given short shrift until he is finally told to “f*ck off”. He remains civilised and gentlemanly to the end, to his credit. An orphan, he was raised by his gran, and he is as brave and strong as could be expected of anyone when his gran passes away. Even here, though, there’s wit: she got her wish to be buried on top of her late husband granted, because, Pete reveals, “she preferred being on top anyway”. He’s incredibly kind: his response to Sophie’s retort was to fix her parents’ kitchen pipework and continue to not only try to speak to her, but do so with courtesy and respect. I found Collins’ portrayal of Pete truly touching – Pete came across as an earnest and honest young man, simply trying to do the best for himself: nothing more, and nothing less.
As a relatively new work, The Kitchen Sink stands apart from a lot of plays written in the last few years. There is no railing against the Government of the day, no grandiose vision of the future, no overarching moral message to take away, and no postmodern philosophy to consider. A humorous, if slightly quirky, piece of theatre, its lack of sensationalism helps to set it apart. Sometimes riotously funny, sometimes almost tear-jerking, but always believable and heartfelt. I did not like it. No. I loved it.
Review by Chris Omaweng
With sequins, couscous, and lollipop ladies, Tom Wells’ depiction of a family in Withernsea, Yorkshire is funny and touching in equal measure. Kath’skitchen sink is leaking, Martin’s milk float is falling apart, Billy’s portraits of Dolly Parton are a little revealing, and Sophie’s dreams of becoming a ju-jitsu teacher are disappearing down the plughole. With an original score by Jonathan Packham and a detailed kitchen design by Sarah Booth, Crex Theatre’s production balances the delicate humour and drama inherent in the script.
Crex Theatre’s team of young graduates is excited to bring The Kitchen Sink to the Barbican’s doorstep from the 24th September until the 2nd October. Following a previous run of sell-out performances to great critical acclaim, The Kitchen Sink promises to be an evening of heartfelt and hilarious comedy-drama.
Press Nights: Thursday 24 or Friday 25 Sept, 19:30
Thursday 24 Sept – 1 Oct (ex. Sun. 27), 19:30
Saturday 26 Sept 2015, 14:30
Friday, 2 Oct 2015, 19:00
Duration: 120 minutes, including a 15-minute interval
£10 (concession) / £12 (full)
The White Lion
37 Central Street
London, EC1V 8AB
Saturday 26th September 2015