[Published in the Age, September 5 2012]
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Kitchen sink realism was termed to describe the gritty working-class dramas that emerged in British film and theatre in the late 1950s. Playwright Tom Wells wrenches the genre’s proverbial faucets with his new domestic comedy, renouncing the angry young men of its past for an affectionate portrait of working-class life.
First staged in London in 2011, The Kitchen Sink follows a nuclear family over the course of a year. Just as their home-town Withernsea — a flourishing seaside resort in Yorkshire — is changing, so too must the family learn to grow.
Father Martin (Russell Fletcher) is a milkman whose livelihood is falling to pieces along with his truck as he struggles to accept that people prefer to shop at Tesco. Gay son Billy (Tim Potter) gets into art school in London with a fanboy portrait of Dolly Parton that his teachers praise as high kitsch.
Belligerent daughter Sophie (Kristina Brew) fails her jiu-jitsu black belt after punching the examiner for calling her “feisty”, while good-natured plumber Pete (Tim Ross) continues to pursue her despite constant rebuffs.
The family is held together by matriarch Kath (Christine Keogh), a lunch lady who nags them to evolve: she even serves sushi for Christmas lunch, to everyone’s dismay. Performances are all solid, but the show’s humour is grounded in Keogh’s dorky exuberance.
Like the kitchen it centres around, this show’s premise is small: it is about having dreams, and the courage to try and fail. This may seem trite, but the result is tender, laugh-out-loud funny and quite delightful.
Currently showing at Red Stitch Actors Theatre, until September 22.