With the news getting ever more depressing by the day and a winter chill finally edging its way into London, the Bush theatre’s latest play should thaw out and warm even the most cynical of theatregoers.
Tom Well’s The Kitchen Sink is quite literally a kitchen sink drama, staged in a Yorkshire family’s…erm kitchen. But this is no Look Back In Anger, there is less angst than wisecracks and the only violence comes from a sister with an obsession for Jiu-Jitsu and a dislike for the word feisty.
Mother Kath is a dinner lady by day and bubbly, supportive wife by night. Diabetes-inducingly sweet, her sunny outlook and ability to keep everyone together – not to mention pull baked goods after baked goods from a seemingly magically refilling oven – is dampened only by possibly a miniscule amount of bubbling resentment.
But while Kath may be content with their small town lives, which sees the arrival of humus in the local Tesco causes waves, her Dolly Parton-loving art student son Billy and emotionally repressed daughter Sophie are slightly less together.
With Well’s well-observed writing and Tamara Harvey’s uplifting direction, their problems are all dealt with with a touch of hilarity and a bigger dose of pathos. People may be unhappy yes, but it’s all in a rather lovely way, and the play’s kitsch touches as the seasons change further convince us it will probably all be okay.
Ryan Sampson as the camp and confused Billy is both ridiculously helpless – is cutting your finger on a duvet possible? – and strikingly perceptive with his down-to-earth insight into the pretentious London art school world. While a scene with Kath and Billy mouth-synching to a yodelling Dolly might be one step too far, any over-the-top moments are balanced by instances of realism that bring the whole play back down to earth.
If this wasn’t already sounding lovely enough, there is romance from Sophie and neighbour Pete who steals scenes with his heartbreakingly awkward portrayal of a simple boy hopelessly in love with a girl who would eat him for breakfast.
With no Gavin & Stacey Christmas special this year, people needing a reminder of why families are so brilliant should look no further than The Kitchen Sink. While life may not always be quite so uplifting, this is a reminder that life’s small victories really can be wonderful.