Failure comes in many forms and we all deal with it in different ways, we run from it, we fight it or we lash out at loved ones. We might deal with it differently but we have all faced it at some point in our lives. It’s what makes us stronger and what can bring us closer together. Tom Wells‘ The Kitchen Sink is a delightful peek into the lives of a family in East Yorkshire who are each facing personal failure. Martin’s (Huw Higginson) milk run is on its last legs, Billy (Ben Hall) is struggling at art school, Sophie (Contessa Treffone) has made a bit of a mess of her black belt exam and her dream of being a Jiu-Jitsu teacher is in tatters, Pete (Duncan Ragg) is losing his battle to woo Sophie while Kath (Hannah Waterman) is failing miserably to inspire and keep together her family. In this little English kitchen we watch their dreams, and the kitchen sink, deteriorate.
The tragedy and comedy in Well’s writing is exquisite and the cast are superb as they take us along on this journey. Higginson gives us a wonderful portrait of a man who is struggling to face the collapse of his life’s work. He balances this struggle and Well’s comic moments with care and precision. Waterman shines. It is essential that Kath’s warmth and unflappable determination to hold everyone together drive this play. Waterman balances this to perfection giving her a solid platform to launch into the climactic scene towards the end of the play. It is a standout moment. Treffone, also, gives a beautifully balanced performance. Holding on tight to the seething anger that never becomes forced she doesn’t let us lose sight of her vulnerability just below the surface. Hall is delightful as the Dolly Parton obsessed, aspiring artist. Never falling into caricature, his effervescant is one of the many touches that keep this play from wallowing in the tragedy. It’s still present in his darker moments. Rounding off the excellent cast is Duncan Ragg. Ragg is captivating. He nicely balances awkwardness, devotion and optimism. Pete is never down trodden. The quite rock secretly anchoring Sophie.
Shane Bosher has kept this play tight and brisk. Nicely crafted final moments bleed into scene changes. Allowing, for example a character to sit and contemplate what just happened over their cuppa while the next scene is set. Alexander Berlage‘s lighting gently elevating the character from the surrounding overlap. The lighting design complimented the production perfectly and Marty Jamieson‘s sound design also perfectly matches the pitch of the show.
A special mention must go to the Stage Management (led by Ruth Horsfall). Having thoroughly enjoyed Buyers and Cellars last week, i was astounded to see the set of The Kitchen Sink which shares the same space. An empty stage with mirrored back walls and minimal furniture makes way for a fully realised English kitchen with working sink and, by the end of the play, a very wet floor. Knowing that these shows alternate on this stage, there is a huge amount of work that must go into the change over and sometimes with a very small amount of time between them. Congratulations to all.
The Kitchen Sink is a delightfully funny, poignant and ultimately inspiring piece of theatre with a cast of superb actors at the top of their craft.
Lynden Jones – Theatre Now & On The Town