THE KITCHEN To 9 November.


by Arnold Wesker.

Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 8 November 2011.
Runs: 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 7 September.

Showing you can have too much of a good thing.
Work takes up a huge amount of most people’s lives yet is seldom portrayed on stage. Arnold Wesker’s The Kitchen (1959) was probably one of the first British post-war plays to place working people’s lives centre stage, followed in the late 1960s by David Storey’s The Contractor and, in recent years, plays by Richard Bean among others.

The Kitchen, however, was remarkable for its time for the size of its cast, over 30. A study of people under pressure as well as a microcosm of society, it shows that bad behaviour amongst chefs was commonplace even then.

Based on his own experiences, Wesker’s behind-the-restaurant scene reflects a very post-war European melting pot with Italians, Greeks, Irish, and workers from the Caribbean all jostling alongside London locals for space to breathe, work and particularly dream `led’ by the unnerving if charismatic German cook, Peter.

As played by the extraordinary Tom Brooke, gaunt of face, skeletal-thin and eyes blazing, this culinary Woyzeck is a disquieting presence, goading all who fall within his sphere and climactically undone by personal rejection from one of the waitresses with whom he’s carrying on a clandestine affair.

All of which comes to us on the Olivier stage in a clever, syncopated production by Bijan Sheibani, one moment as if its participants had been caught in a Busby Berkeley sequence, the next held in slo-mo or freeze framed.

Appropriate for workers whose lives are ruled by heat and the treadmill of long hours, designer Giles Cadle’s glistening kitchen however smacks more of the 21st century than the 1950s. A marvellous social realism period piece which realises its drama through detailed inter-personal relationships its impact is dangerously lessened in the Olivier’s vast expanses. The whole point of Wesker’s structure is to show the pressure put upon relationships by close proximity.

Profoundly idealistic – “I give you work, money, food to eat. What more do you want?” screams Marango, the proprietor – Wesker’s humane and subtle vision is a useful reminder in our own rampantly materialistic times that we exist for more than bread alone.

Magi: Tendayi Jembere.
Max: Ian Burfield.
Bertha: Tricia Kelly.
Frank: Neal Barry.
Aflredo: Vincenzo Nicoli.
Hans: Marek Oravec.
Peter: Tom Brooke.
Kevin: Rory Keenan.
Gaston: Stavros Demetraki.
Michael: Luke Norris.
Nicholas: Craige Els.
Paul: Samuel Roukin.
Raymondo: Gerard Monaco.
Head Chef: Paul McCleary.
Marango: Bruce Myers.
Anne: Siobhán McSweeney.
Mangolis: Hambi Pappas.
Dimitri: Sam Swann.
Head Waiter: Tim Samuels.
Tramp: Colin Haigh.
Monique: Katie Lyons.
Molly: Rebecca Humphries.
Winnie: Sarah Mowat.
Hettie: Rendah Heywood.
Violet: Rosie Thomson.
Gwen: Ruth Gibson.
Daphne: Stephanie Thomas.
Cynthia: Jessica Regan.
Betty: Rebecca Davies.
Jackie: Sarah Sweeney.

Director: Bijan Sheibani.
Designer: Giles Cadle.
Costume: Moritz Junge.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound/Music: Dan Jones.
Movement: Aline David.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Dialect coach: Majella Hurley.
Digital Artist: Tim Blazdell
Cookery consultant: Jeremy Lee.
Associate sound: Peter Rice.

This production opened at the Olivier Theatre London 7 September 2011. It is part of the NT’s Travelex Programme and will be broadcast live in the National Theatre Live season on 6 October 2011. Further details on

2011-09-12 11:45:36

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