Of Kith and Kin begins with two men, a married couple, both blindfolded – perhaps an apt metaphor for many kinds of blindness present within the remaining two hours of the play: our ignorance of secrets kept by our loved ones and the way we blind ourselves to uncomfortable truths about our character or pasts.
But, as is stated explicitly later on: “…the past catches up with us all eventually.” And the five-strong cast do a very impressive job of exploring emotionally complex subject matter whilst maintaining the fraught and searingly intense dramatic tension.
Initially set in a modern flat in Shadwell, Daniel and Oliver, played by James Lance and Joshua Silver, are eagerly expecting their first child, with their best friend Priya, acting as a surrogate. However, after a disastrous and violent baby shower, prompted by the arrival of Daniel’s mother, tensions between the characters start to surface, which threaten the planned parenthood agreement.
Despite weighty personal and familial issues being explored, the first half of the play is very funny indeed, with lightning-fast dialogue and acerbic comebacks aplenty. James Lance does a noteworthy job of carrying the central role, as the play increasingly mines not only Daniel’s relationship with his husband but also his relationship with his parents, after being thrown out of home aged 15.
Playwright Chris Thompson previously worked as a social worker in child protection, and he ably and authentically brings that experience to bear, as Daniel’s desire to have a child becomes an attempt to, as he says himself, “break the cycle” of abuse and abandonment.
For me, though, it was Joshua Silver who excelled as Oliver, displaying a sensitivity of expression and subtlety which was needed amongst the furious infighting and stinging retorts. Joanna Bacon also deserves special credit for her convincing portrayal of both Daniel’s difficult mother and the barrister who cross-examines him in a family court hearing. Director Robert Hastie’s neat Freudian trick is to have her interrogate Daniel about his relationship with his mother, whilst perfectly resembling her.
This attention to detail exemplifies what is a painstakingly considered and successful production. Ultimately, it underscores William Faulkner’s famous aphorism: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”
Review by Ben Miller
‘He can’t call you both Dad. One of you should be Dad and the other one Daddy, surely?’
Daniel and Oliver are about to have their first baby. With their best friend, Priya, acting as surrogate, they’ve turned the study into a nursery and the bottles are sterilised. All that’s missing is the bundle of joy they’ve been pining for.
But when Daniel’s chaotic mother gatecrashes the baby shower with a few home truths, the cracks in Daniel and Oliver’s relationship begin to show. Are they as ready for this as they think they are? And more importantly, is Priya?
OF KITH AND KIN
Until 25 Nov (Bush Theatre)
by Chris Thompson
directed by Robert Hastie