Scenes from 'The Kitchen Sink'

Mon 17th – Sat 29th August 2015


Jenny Burton

at 09:58 on 22nd Aug 2015



The Kitchen Sink by Tom Wells has been brought to the fringe by Exeter University. From the blurb on the programme and their marketing material, I had imagined that I was about to sit through a slapstick infused comedy. It could not have been further from the truth; The Kitchen Sink is a heartfelt drama that will bring a tear to your eye.

Set in Withernsea, right on the coast near Hull, The Kitchen Sink explores the stresses and strains on a struggling family. While father Martin has to finally admit that the milk trade is not a viable business option in the 21st century, his wife Kath puts her energy into comforting their son who wishes to go to art school in London and their daughter whose anger management problems keep getting in the way of her dream to be a Jiu-Jitsu teacher. As the tension rises in the family home, each member must justify their actions both to each other, and to themselves.

The Kitchen Sink’s biggest success was its ability to juggle its light-hearted moments with darker scenes. The loveable family friend Pete (Simon Marshall) was wonderfully adept at making his audience smile, but equally capable of evoking pity when across from Sophie (Flora Ashton). The will-they-won’t-they element to their relationship was captured beautifully and Marshall’s handling of discussing her terrible past experience was sensitive and intelligently performed.

Although the comedy is already written into Tom Wells’ script, with the constant mention of nipples and sushi being served for Christmas lunch, The Kitchen Sink is able to master its comic moments with inspired direction from Alice Fitzgerald. Billy (Oliver McLellan) as the most modern member of the family tries to raise the spirits of the others and McLellan brilliantly portrays his desire to discover more than Withernsea. With high energy, he gallivants across the stage bellowing Dolly Parton into a wooden spoon revealing his charmingly juvenile side.

The ability to stir real emotion in forty-five minutes in the middle of the day at the Edinburgh fringe is no easy task, but the company from Exeter pulled it off. Although the ending appeared a little unfinished and messy (perhaps a blackout would have been stronger), their performances were convincing and I was left wanting more.


Mel Beckerleg

at 15:13 on 22nd Aug 2015



The demise of a milk cart, Dolly Parton and a ju-jutsi exam might not seem like natural ingredients for anything more than a superficial farce. Yet these are the exact ingredients to be found in ETUDOE’s touching and understated production of The Kitchen Sink. It’s a production that blends everyday humour with everyday problems to deliver a profound and entertaining show.

The action takes place entirely in the kitchen Withernsea family. There’s an incredible sense of intimacy from the outset; little things like the chopping of carrots and buttering of bread give the impression of being invited in to a family home and help build up the emotional pull we feel towards these characters and their lives. Billy’s loveable flamboyance and Martin’s quirky ‘dad’ mannerisms quickly prove to be entertaining and enjoyable. Even the opening line of the show drew a laugh, and there are several more to follow.

As the show progresses though, the challenges that family face begin mounting up, and there are darker scenes, through which we uncover the resilience of the characters. And although the specifics might be a little out-of the-ordinary, it is easy to relate to the emotions that surround the events; dealing with failure and the feeling of having lost control of your life. These scenes of difficulty are littered with a poignant humour. This is not crude, instead the play becomes more appealing, for example when one of the characters is discussing death and bemoans the difficulty of having to scrape algae from a headstone.

To some extent, the characters come across as slightly one-dimensional; each is only ever seen in the prism of their ‘special interest’ - Billy’s art, Martin’s milkfloat and so on. No comment is made on the irony of Kath’s (Helena Dudley) rant about her family not doing enough to change their lives, when she has a gaping lack of interests or goals herself (unless you count the preparation of cous-cous of course).

The hesitant delivery, however, works beautifully to give depth to the performance. Those things that are not said with words are expressed in the subtle deliveries of the performers, and the unspoken emotions are palpable. Flora Ashton, who plays Sophie, is a very natural performer, and her relationship with the endearing Pete (Simon Marshall) is heart-warming.

The lapse of time between scenes is masterfully done; there are gaps yet the audience is able to piece together what has happened in the interim. However, the play does feel like it is lacking content (and not just before of the two deleted scenes). The ending is abrupt, and pretty dissatisfying, given how invested the audience is by that point.

There are no passionate declarations of emotion but this is a play that does not tug but yanks at the heart strings and leaves you eager for more.


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