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The Kitchen Sink at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | Review

I have no idea whether it was true, but I was once told about a milkman who made a delivery to a customer during a heatwave. The customer had already gone to work but had left a bucket of water on the porch and a note with the instruction, “Please leave milk in water.” The milkman – time being of the essence and all that – promptly poured the milk into the bucket and went on his way. I doubt Martin (Ken Bradshaw) would have done something similar – I suspect he would have not noticed the sign altogether and left the milk in the usual place in the usual way.

L-R Dominic Jones, Sally George - Photo credit Mark Sepple.
L-R Dominic Jones, Sally George – Photo credit Mark Sepple.

This is the thing about Martin, however – he keeps on keeping on, while wife Kath (Sally George) is savvy enough to understand what’s going on. It’s hardly a spoiler to state that doorstep deliveries of milk gradually disappeared as more and more people started buying milk from supermarkets at a cheaper price than the milkmen themselves could buy it from their own suppliers. When Martin’s milk float is a write-off, it’s the kind of metaphor that schoolteachers would almost yell at pupils in an English literature lesson, indicative of a line of work that is just as fundamentally broken as the float itself. The world has moved on.

One can’t fault Martin for trying, even roping daughter Sophie (Matilda Tucker) into the business once she decides being a martial arts trainer isn’t something she wants to carry on doing. Her boyfriend Pete (Joseph Reed) is pursuing a career in plumbing, and her younger brother Billy (Dominic Jones) is off to art college in London, having sufficiently impressed the admissions officer at an interview, with a portrait of Dolly Parton.

The narrative isn’t as developed as it could potentially be, and the play ends rather abruptly, leaving the audience to ponder for themselves what happens to any of the characters thereafter. It is, essentially, a sorry tale of abject failure to achieve aspirations, none of which were dishonourable or ridiculous in themselves. Hats off to the production’s accent coach, Mary Howland: the Yorkshire accents in the play were so good that there were a couple of occasions when I could hear whispering in the audience as people were trying to confirm what was just said!

There are stereotypes in the show – there’s the father figure who expresses no emotion at all when, for instance, Billy receives some good news, and the perennially stroppy daughter who is rather more articulate in the play than she might be in ‘real life’, if only because the audience wouldn’t otherwise gain much understanding of a non-communicative character, and the actor wouldn’t otherwise have much to do. Martin’s fear of change extends to a loss of appetite on account of a lack of potatoes at the dinner table just because Kath fancied preparing something else for once.

Kath explodes into a tirade on Christmas Day in a rant that becomes hard-hitting in more ways than one. Even if it sounded like something from a soap opera, the expression of frustration and exasperation was relatable for anyone who has found themselves in a situation where others can’t see the wood for the trees. The scene plays to the gallery somewhat, but this is hardly problematic in a play that strikes the right balance between comedy and sincerity.

Not everything is entirely believable, at least not to me – Sophie seemed made of sterner stuff than a petulant martial arts black belt candidate who fails her exam because whatever she did landed the examiner in A&E. (Not that I know anything about martial arts, but wouldn’t that mean she passed with flying colours?) There was also a running gag about an off-stage grandmother who apparently spent her final years smoking cannabis and watching hip-hop videos on YouTube. But, all things considered, it’s a hearty and worthwhile production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Things aren’t going to plan for one Yorkshire family.

Martin’s milk float is falling apart and something’s up with Kath’s sink. Billy’s trying to get into art school with a portrait of Dolly Parton. Sophie dreaming of her black belt whilst Pete, a local plumber, is quietly falling in love.

Amidst the dramas and the dirty dishes, something has to give…

This 10th-anniversary new production of Tom Wells’ award-winning gem of a play is ‎an affectionate and sweet portrait of working-class family life.

Ken Bradshaw Martin
Sally George Kath
Dominic Jones Billy
Joseph Reed Pete
Matilda Tucker Sophie

Caroline Leslie Director
Zoe Hurwitz Designer
Stephen Pemble Lighting Designer
Jack Baxter Sound Designer and Composer
Nicola Thomas Costume Supervisor
Molly Wilsher Assistant Director
Mathew Russell Executive Producer

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Billet Lane, Hornchurch. RM11 1QT
The Kitchen Sink
Dates: 17 Mar – 2 Apr 2022

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