My first trip to the terrific new home for the Bush Theatre proved to be as enjoyable as any I have made this year. Tom Wells' story of a Humberside family struggling with financial pressures and hopeless employment prospects could be depressing and cliched but Wells avoids those traps and it's also frequently very funny indeed and shot through with optimism about the essential decency of the five characters. It's also probably the first time that Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You has been used as an elegy for a milk float. The cst ensure you really care about these people with Lisa Palfrey outstanding as the matriarch trying to keep it all together. It still didn't convince me that an in-the-round staging can be totally effective but The Kitchen Sink is in the top two or three new plays of this year. It may be a bit too sentimental for some but Wells is clearly a name to look out for. - David Baxter
21 Dec 11
The phrase ¡®kitchen sink drama¡¯ was coined in the late 50¡äs / early 60¡äs to describe plays about working class folk full of angst. Well, there¡¯s not just a sink but an entire kitchen here ¨C but not a lot of angst. This play is a heart-warming tale of the plight of working class people trying to make a living today that is funny and charming, but at its heart deeply perceptive. Like buses, this is my second ¡¯blue collar¡¯ play on consecutive nights, albeit from two continents, after a long famine!
We¡¯re with a family just outside Hull. Dad Martin¡¯s milk round (and milk float) is struggling to survive now that most people do all their shopping at Tescos. Daughter Sophie and her (boy)friend Pete have lost their jobs at Woolies - Sophie is now training in Jujitsu and Pete as a plumber. Son Billy¡¯s heading for art school after his paintings of heroine Dolly Parton are deemed postmodern kitsch. The family is held together my mum Kath, housewife and part-time lollipop lady. You even get to know offstage characters like Pete¡¯s seemingly wild Nan and friend & advisor Danny and Sophie¡¯s Jujitsu teacher and blue belt examiner.
Staged in the round, we¡¯re peering into the kitchen, the centre of family life, where food is prepared, cooked and eaten, experiences shared and events and feelings communicated. In a lovely touch, scenes often end with the dishes being washed. Time and the change of seasons is cleverly marked and the kitchen sink itself performs regularly. The whole thing is enthralling and captivating; I couldn¡¯t wait to return after the interval and really didn¡¯t want it to end.
The performances are beautifully nuanced, particularly Andy Rush as Pete and Ryan Sampson as Billy. The scene where Pete is trying to make a move on Sophie is an absolute gem and whenever Billy is on stage, you¡¯re watching him. Leah Brotherhead has, in many ways, the toughest role given Sophie¡¯s emotional journey, but she pulls it off brilliantly. It doesn¡¯t take you long to bury Gavin & Stacy¡¯s Dave Coaches as Steffan Rhodri inhabits dad Martin, running away from the reality of change, and at the centre of all of this is a superb performance from Lisa Palfrey as mum Kath. Another night of perfect casting.
Tamara Harvey¡¯s attention to detail results in a staging that draws you in and involves you completely in these people¡¯s lives. The in-the-round setting doesn¡¯t always work (there are occasions when you¡¯d like to see the faces of all parties to a conversation) but it does give the play its intimacy. For the first time, a name check for the stage management team ¨C Mary Hely, Amy Jewell and Sarah Barnes ¨C as this must be a difficult play to run, yet it¡¯s was very slickly done.
This is a triumphant first (proper) play in the new Bush and another candidate for the best new play of 2011. If you miss it, it will be your own fault! - Gareth James
01 Dec 11
Coveney doesn't really get this play. It is, as he says, beautifully written (and acted) - but it's also much smarter and more complex than he realises. The events might look slight, in some perspectives - but the play isn't. Five stars. - fred
25 Nov 11
Also - "too good to be gay"? Is this a reference or common phrase that I'm missing/unfamiliar with, or is it actually homophobic? - Jack
24 Nov 11
Why, Mr Coveney, do you give away what happens to some of the characters at the end of the play? What an unpleasant, thoughtless thing to do. They may not be major drastic upheavals, but they're the resolutions that we've spent two hours building up to, and I doubt I'd have enjoyed things as much had I gone in knowing them outright. Please be more considerate! - Jack
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