Saturday, 5 April 2014

Theatre review: The Kitchen Sink

Drama school showcases technically fall under the category of amateur performances, which isn't something I like to review. But given these are people who hope to be acting professionally after graduating, I'm going to take the view that they'd want to know how their efforts come across to the public.

So Tom Wells' ubiquity in 2014 continues, and even the drama schools are including him on the curriculum as LAMDA presents his 2011 play The Kitchen Sink as one of their public shows this year. The title is a statement of intent as Wells takes the bleak kitchen sink genre of people's fruitless struggles to hold on to work and find a path in life, and turns it into something distinctly his. The family living in Withernsea, a Yorkshire town slowly falling into the sea, is crumbling just as steadily but the impression given by the play is far from grim-up-North: The overriding impression is that there's always hope, in a typically funny collection of characters. The heart of the play is school dinnerlady Kath (Clio Davies,) sick of cooking chips at work every day so trying to inject a bit of variety into her meals at home (although I'm firmly on Martin's side where couscous is concerned.)

Sandy Murray plays her husband Martin, a milkman unwilling to face the fact that his job is no longer a viable one; David Moorst is Billy, the son with a Dolly Parton fixation and dreams of art school; Celeste Dodwell is tomboyish daughter Sophie, and Simon Robinson Pete the plumber, whose granny's the local pot dealer and whose love for Sophie is unrequited. Wells' plays are so strong and have such an individual voice that they can seem indestructible, but unfortunately this proves otherwise: The Kitchen Sink still comes out of this well with some cracking lines that nobody else could have written ("I'll never wear ripped jeans. Life's draughty enough.") but director Stephen Unwin seems to have missed the rhythms of the piece and delivered altogether too slow a production - I've never felt one of Wells' plays drag before but the first act feels significantly longer than the hour it actually is.

Of the cast, the pair playing the parents stand out: Davies and Murray play it straight, allowing both the comedy and the pathos of their characters to really pan out: I hope to see a lot more of both of them when they graduate. Ironically it's those actors playing closer to their real ages who haven't got a real grasp on their roles. Wells' writing is quirky but there's a realness to his characters, buried as Unwin's allowed Moorst to play up Billy's campness, and Robinson to turn Pete's social awkwardness into borderline autism. And why Dodwell plays Sophie as slurringly, swayingly drunk throughout is a mystery much discussed in the interval and on the trip home but never solved.

I don't want to be too harsh on actors who haven't finished their training yet; and where a couple of them feel more ready than others to start playing with the big boys, most show talent even if they don't show control yet. The production as a whole, though, has trouble grappling with the writer's distinctive style and too often treats it either as sitcom or melodrama.

The Kitchen Sink by Tom Wells is booking in repertory until the 10th of April at the LAMDA Linbury Studio.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval.

No comments:

Post a Comment