Review: The Crex Theatre’s ‘The Kitchen Sink’ ****

In a world of substandard Nandos, the Circle Line and lactose intolerance, life can be tough for milkman Martin and his family!

Written by Tom Wells, The Kitchen Sink is a heartfelt, domestic comedy with family at its heart, as we see snapshots of husband and wife Martin and Kath and their childrens’ lives. The latest venue that the Crex Theatre team are popping up in is the recently vacated White Lion pub, teching and transforming the space into not only a stage but a theatre. The set itself is very realistic, so much so that I couldn’t tell if it was the remnants of the pub’s kitchen, a recreated set or a mixture of both. With an oven, fridge and dinner table, it has everything but a working kitchen sink (unfortunately for Kath). So intimate a space has Set Designer Sarah Booth created, that you feel as if you are in the kitchen with these characters, an extended member of the family, going through all this with them.

Emilie Aspeling as Sophie.

When I interviewed Director Dominic Williams last week, we talked about the naturalism inherent in Wells’ script. Thanks to Williams’ direction, this element translates well from page to stage, particularly with the character of Pete (Rob Collins). With pauses and hesitations embedded in this character’s lines, it could be hard to convey this without some shade of awkwardness. But Collins plays this perfectly, bringing a naivety and sincerity to the character. As strong as his comedic moments are including the debate as to what colour of flowers is the least committal, most impressive are his more somber moments. The scenes in which Pete mourns following the death of a loved one are heartbreaking, and I was moved to tears with Collins’ emotional honesty.

Rob Collins as Pete.

Olivia Race makes for a caring matriarch in Kath and her comedic timing is spot on, particularly in the opening scene, aka the couscous incident. While being the centre and grounding force in the family, Kath is simultaneously the odd one out. Apathy seems innate to the other members of the family, a willingness to accept the status quo. Kath, on the other hand, wants something more, not for herself but her children. Race’s portrayal of this indecision at to whether to step in and help but not step on others’ toes is compelling, be it when dealing with the fate of her husband’s failing milkfloat or Dolly Parton’s nipples. Race’s Kath and her husband Martin (Jo Allan) make for a perfect comedic double act, and Allan is transformed in the role. He makes for an utterly convincing father figure, perfecting the half annoyed half confused stare! Being a comedic force in the first act, the tone then shifts in the second act and we see a different side to this character, with the final scene between him and son Billy (Sam McKay) a hopeful but bleak end.

Jo Allan as Martin, and Olivia Race as Kath.

McKay too is brilliant and his energy is so funny, adopting an almost monotone inflection throughout the play. The seriousness with which he discusses Dolly Parton’s nipples is hilarious. If McKay’s reactions are appropriately downbeat and muted, those of Emilie Aspeling’s Sophie are the very opposite. Apeling brings an interesting dichotomy to the character: at points she is wholly expressive, verbally and physically, and her anger is palpable. At other times, there is a reservedness, a nervousness in the character, for which a reason is later given. Apeling plays these moments and the reveal pitch perfectly, through her sheer physicality and Sophie’s nervous ticks such as biting her finger nails.

Jo Allan as Martin, and Sam McKay as Billy.

Verdict: an incredible production during which we go on a journey with these characters, from heartwarming moments to those as cold and hard as Dolly Parton’s nipples!

The Kitchen Sink is 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.

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