This week, a vacant pub in the heart of London will be transformed, becoming a pop up theatre space pretty much overnight. The Crex Theatre team are staging a new production of Tom Wells’ The Kitchen Sink at The White Lion pub, and the play is a family drama with comedy at its heart:
With sequins, couscous, and lollipop ladies, Tom Wells’ depiction of a family in Withernsea, Yorkshire is funny and touching in equal measure. Kath’s kitchen sink is leaking, Martin’s milk float is falling apart, Billy’s portraits of Dolly Parton are a little revealing, and Sophie’s dreams of becoming a ju-jitsu teacher are disappearing down the plughole.
It’s a busy week ahead for the Crex Theatre team: on Monday it’s teching up, Tuesday it’s rehearsals and more tech, and then Wednesday is their first preview!
I managed to speak to the director Dominic Williams on Saturday, in the calm before the storm.
On why they chose to revive this play, Williams commended the ‘beautiful script’ and the themes embedded in the play. It’s a ‘classic domestic, family drama’, with much of ‘the humour driven by the characters’ themselves. ‘It’s the balance between those moments of comedy and how touching and heartwarming it is,’ Williams continues. ‘Although you’re laughing at the family, you’re also deeply empathetic towards them. It’s a very British style of comedy, repressing emotions, and unable to talk about how they’re feeling’.
Critics during the play’s original run in 2011 at the Bush Theatre praised its naturalistic tone. This proved a ‘a big appeal’ to Williams and the cast: ‘What’s incredible is how nuanced the script is, in technical terms, how [Wells] reveals information and the timing of this’. During rehearsals, the cast have been working closely with the text, taking the smallest of details into account for characterisation. ‘Each character has very different points [of view],’ Williams notes. ‘And the language used, the detail and the verbal ticks are very different. [The cast] have been very careful picking these out in rehearsals, trying to understand how each character talks, using the text as a guide, [even] looking at punctuation’. Understanding the characters so thoroughly has meant the relationships on stage are even more believable, as Williams comments that, ‘the cast is fantastic, and there’s a great chemistry’ within the family dynamics.
This isn’t the first outing for their production of The Kitchen Sink; it’s been popping up everywhere. Literally! The Crex Theatre has taken some non-traditional venues and created a theatre space within them, setting and teching in the week leading up to the shows and then gone the next week. So far, they’ve performed in an indoor market, a cafe and now a pub. When asked about their latest venue, Williams commented: ‘To be honest, it’s been a bit of luck! It’s hard to find a suitable venue in London, central and for the space. The White Lion is a fantastic venue, and the perfect space’. The venues for these pop up shows seem somewhat appropriate for the play, and Williams believes, ‘[they] do tie together in a sense: these places are community hubs, and this draws parallels with the play. The Durham Indoor Market was a local focal point for students, and the White Lion was too. And with the play, Withernsea is such a small place, [a] nice local space, that the family is embedded in the community’.
Of course, adapting the play to different spaces does bring with it some ‘practical challenges…[and] stage management ones too’, but Williams praised their ‘fantastic set designer [Sarah Booth], who’s worked out the space really well’. As opposed to previous stagings, this time ‘it’s been opened out a lot, using a thrust stage which is better for drama and comedy’, while ‘still staying naturalist’ in essence.
Our chat finished with me asking Williams to sum up the play in five words. A rather mean feat, to be honest, so I gave offered him ten instead! After some thinking, Williams gave a good answer and managed to sum it up in six words:
‘For the Almeida’s Orestia, the theatre described it as a mix between Breaking Bad and The Godfather. Although, cheekily they didn’t mention it was 3 hours and 45 minutes long! Ours is 2 hours though, and I’d say it’s: part Outnumbered part Little Miss Sunshine‘.
The Kitchen Sink will be playing from Thursday 24th of September to Friday 2nd of October at The White Lion Pub. To book tickets, visit the Eventbrite website and for more information about the Crex Theatre team, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.