Sharp, poignant and with more than a few nods to Dolly Parton, Fourth Wall Theatre’s The Kitchen Sink is a fantastic portrayal of family life in all its glory and turbulence. Directed by Mary Lord, the cast of five deliver a humbling, emotional piece resonating with the audience as issues throughout the characters’ lives are brought to the (kitchen) table as they chase dreams and marvel at change.
Set around the 50s and 60s, writer Tom Wells seeks to modernise the kitchen sink drama genre by peppering the script with references that catch the audience off guard in their subtlety- who hasn’t been on a Nando’s date? Stunning with their impeccable comic timing, the cast creates a masterpiece of light-hearted humour and moving moments as we watch a year in the life of a very normal family from Withernsea near Hull. Focusing around a family of four the audience meet the artistic son, Billy (Charlie Howe), the jiu-jitsu-fighting daughter, Sophie (Antonia Hogan), the milkman father, Martin (Cameron Ashplant) and Kath (Eleanor McIntyre), the mother, holding everyone together.
“What do you think about the nipples?”, is the opening line as we meet Billy nagging his mum about his painting of Dolly Parton, which pretty much sets the tone of the play. With classic British humour interwoven with family tussles and struggles, Fourth Wall Theatre present a laugh-a-minute performance with conviction and ease, barely dropping the heavy northern accent throughout.
Delightfully charismatic, McIntyre’s performance demonstrates how a mother and wife’s love and support keeps a family going- even if she decides sushi is acceptable on Christmas day. A wonderfully monosyllabic and wholly entertaining performance by Ashplant captures the stereotypical father figure in his stoic element, navigating times where milkmen find themselves less and less relevant.
Sexism in self-defence classes surfaces during the performance with Hogan showing how undermining it can be to be singled out for being female. Her strong personality juxtaposes perfectly with Salter’s blunt and charmingly awkward portrayal of Pete, Sophie’s boyfriend, infusing the performance with wit and touching moments of emotion showing that everybody has bad days.
Howe takes us through mother and father son relationships with quietly heart-wrenching moments thrown in with Dolly Parton sing-alongs, taking the audience through the ups and downs of dreams at every stage of life. The five characters are masterfully brought to life and come together to put the world to rights in the kitchen, even if the sink is perpetually broken.
The kitchen in question is outstanding. From the toast in the toaster, to a fridge freezer, a fruit bowl with actual fruit in (unfamiliar in student territory) and a CD player we’ve all owned alongside a collection of Now CDs, the attention to detail is incredibly well done. Incorporating more into the set as the play develops only adds to the atmosphere created, making the intimate Birley Room in Hatfield truly feel like a household. Although the door on the set proves tricky to open at times, and some scene changes aren’t as smooth as they could be, these are minor points and the set overall deserves immense credit.
Effective lighting and staging reflects the mood of the characters showing divisive moments as well as how tight-knitted it feels to all cram around the kitchen table at once. Although the musical interludes between scenes feel a little random and sparse, music is cleverly used to end scenes emphasising emotions and of course keeping Dolly Parton involved.
The Kitchen Sink is about chasing dreams and boundless family love, a play that will strike a chord in your heart and warm the room with its unrelenting charm. From pink vans to the outrageous swap of potatoes to couscous at dinner time, The Kitchen Sink, is a joy to watch with its effortless humour and wonderfully talented cast.
The Kitchen Sink is back on tonight (Friday the 13th of March) at 7:30pm.
Image: Fourth Wall Theatre