Isabelle Culkin talks to the cast and crew of Aidan Theatre Company’s ‘The Kitchen Sink’.
Tom Wells’ The Kitchen Sink is undeniably a play which draws on a history of ‘kitchen sink dramas’. Set in the seaside resort of Withernsea, it follows the day to day lives and dynamic of a struggling family.
Sandy Thin, who plays Martin, praises how “real” the script is, which is both “funny and touching”. Pressed to explain its premise and genre further, director Dominic Williams insists that it’s “difficult to pigeon hole”, but that ultimately it’s about a family who are struggling to “express their own issues”. Dominic McGovern, who plays Billy, agrees and clarifies that it’s essentially about “five characters who all have their own issues and problems to deal with, and exist inside each other’s worlds but are sort of just talking across the other four about their own issues”.
Tom Wells’ script means that “not a lot actually goes on in the plot”, McGovern continues, which makes the action “quite episodic”. Wells’ naturalism appears to be both a blessing and a curse. Williams decided to get the cast off of the scripts early when blocking action during rehearsals. Emilie Aspeling, who plays Sophie, argues that this helped them get a “better idea of the scene”, but McGovern admits that this also made it difficult because of the “nature of way the play is written”. Much of Wells’ dialogue is written very colloquially and that makes it difficult because intonation is “dictated by the way the words are written”. Watching some of the rehearsal, it seems this method has paid off. The action and dialogue of the play comes across as extremely naturalistic, to the extent that it is easy to forget that you are actually watching a play.
Williams explains that he picked the play because “it’s very funny, all the characters are very realistic” and that when he first read it “it read beautifully off the page, and didn’t feel as if though it was contrived at all. All the characters’ lines make sense, it’s very funny, very realistic and very touching”. Importantly he asserts that it’s “not a simple laugh”. Rob Collins, who plays Pete, agrees that it is as thought-provoking as it is touching, and that the audience will hopefully come away “invested in the characters” by the end. McGovern says that all the characters seem to lack a sense of direction. It is essentially the fact that the action and dialogue is so relatable which frames the success of Wells’ text. The Kitchen Sink will be performed in the unusual location of Durham Indoor Market. However, it being such a domestic drama, means it situates itself well within the Indoor Market. Its producer Laura Chapman explains that its actually the ideal place to do the show because its allowed “closer links with the local community”.
Chapman is certainly right, and for reasons beyond its subject matter. Williams says the “Indoor Market have been incredible”, with members such as Colin Wilkes being particularly “supportive”. Chapman explains that the indoor market have been really helpful in supporting the publicity of the production, and have enabled links which have allowed the production to be publicised in The Northern Echo and The Durham Times, as well as an interview with Sue Sweeney on BBC Newcastle. In a play which emphasises the difficulty of expression and struggle to maintain connectedness, it is almost touching that its performance has enabled closer ties to the local Durham community.
The Kitchen Sink will be Williams’ last play as a director in Durham and he counts himself lucky to be working with a small cast “who are so talented” and such “a dedicated production team”. It is also Collins’ last show as an actor. When asked about his time acting at Durham, he responds that he’s “really enjoyed acting” through which he’s “met lots of lovely people”. With these final words, it’s quite clear that The Kitchen Sink also promises to be a touch sentimental too.
‘The Kitchen Sink’ is at Durham Indoor Market from Wed 17 June till Sat 20 June.
Photos: Isabelle Culkin