THE KITCHEN SINK
by Tom Wells.
Bush Theatre 7 Uxbridge Road W12 8LJ To 17 December 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm
Audio-described 3 Dec 2.30pm.
Captioned 1 Dec.
Run 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8743 5050.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 November.
Memorable picture of seaside life which is no holiday.
Though the city’s surrounding area has been named among the most desirable parts of England to live, low self-expectation seems to extend from the city of Hull to Withernsea on Yorkshire’s east coast.
On Ben Stones’s set, its sands underlie a household where defeat is as endemic as the sink’s problematic tap (a problem sometimes deliberately induced). Martin seemed set for life with his routine morning milk-round, till the supermarkets arrived. Kathy ekes-out family income with low-paid work around schools – dinner- and lollipop-lady, playground supervisor.
Yet they survive – Kathy even cheerful at times, Martin remaining stoic as he uses his wife’s spectacles when filling-in an application form. The next generation surrenders before they’ve begun, when their arts and martial arts skills meet real challenges. Only plumber Pete, a family friend (Andy Rush capturing his eternal awkward hesitancy), finally cuts away, using a small inheritance to plumb his away around Australia.
His is the only skill achieved in the play – apart from the essential one of surviving together. Failure crops-up in quirky detail – courgette muffins anyone? (thought not), Billy’s sequin-studded Dolly Paton picture, or his sister’s insistence he learns martial arts to survive London’s streets.
All that’s underdeveloped among the character, incident (including neat narrative moments that lead to audience catch-up) and humour is a sense of forward-drive. It’s one thing to show purposeless lives, another to have dramatic development hanging around too long.
Tamara Harvey’s scrupulous production (catching the distinctive east of Hull ‘o’ sound) is finely performed by a cast who never patronise their characters. There’s a moment when Kathy snatches her hungry husband’s food away and threatens to dump it in the bin if he doesn’t listen to her. Lisa Palfrey and Steffan Rhodri maintain a tension that speaks for the enduring and the endurance in their lives together. The younger characters flit in and out of scenes with the sense of lives lived elsewhere.
In its new home the Bush continues to do well what’s always been its strength – showing new plays that investigate individual areas of society, as honestly and skilfully as could be imagined.
Kathy: Lisa Palfrey.
Billy: Ryan Sampson.
Sophie: Leah Brotherhead.
Pete: Andy Rush.
Martin: Steffan Rhodri.
Director: Tamara Harvey.
Designer: Ben Stones.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Dialect coaches: William Conacher, Daniele Lydon.
Assistant director: Olly Hawes.