Coliseum Theatre, Oldham; Friday 9th February, 2018
First it gets blocked and won’t drain properly; then it needs a hammer to get it working at all; finally it can take no more and sends a spectacular and defiant spout of water erupting right across the room.
As the kitchen sink begins to slowly spiral towards dysfunctionality, so too does the family who depend upon it. The alarming decline of such a crucial piece of kitchen hardware begins to symbolise the growing threat to family stability from a multitude of other sources.
The Kitchen Sink by Tom Wells is a reassuringly comfortable tale of day-to-day trivialities. Though the play is set in East Yorkshire these are the kinds of familial fun and games that will be found anywhere and everywhere.
Delivered entirely on a set that depicts a typical kitchen in a normal household setting, the show portrays a year in the life of a family undergoing considerable change. Teenager Billy is using his Dolly Parton portraits to get into a fancy arts school in London; his sister Sophie dreams of being a self-defence instructor; and then Mum and Dad are arguing over his obstinate refusal to give up on his milk rounds that are losing customers every day.
Star of the show is Sue Devaney – a performer who might have a genuine complaint at being so regularly typecast in the same type of role again and again. But she’s a victim of her own success: Devaney is just so good at playing the short-arsed, feisty, mouthy Northern battleaxe who just gets funnier and funnier as she gets angrier and angrier. Whilst her family navigate their way around a multitude of domestic scrapes, Devaney’s Mum character holds it all together with a reassuring tendency to rationalise and neutralise.
Also delivering an exceptional performance is David Judge, who plays the awkward and bumbling is-he-or-isn’t-he boyfriend of daughter Sophie. His status as Sophie’s boyfriend isn’t the only is-he-or-isn’t-he question that Judge raises – his opening scene as he enters the family house for the first time is side-splittingly funny, the most excruciatingly camp expressions of first-date hesitation that you could ever hope to see.
The Kitchen Sink is a fantastic night of entertainment. The characters seem so familiar, watching this performance feels like catching up on an episode of a sitcom which you have known for years. In the end, not much actually happens, plot-wise, but where this performance shines is in the art of telling the tale – this is an outstanding piece of theatre thanks to some exceptional acting performances.
|Visual pleasure||The entire performance is delivered on a set depicting a typical household kitchen. Slightly boring at first but then all the silly little annoyances surface: the kettle that takes too long to boil; the cupboards that are too high up for mum to reach; and of course that pesky sink. Now I can’t help but rage at the numerous kitchen injustices that we all silently endure every day.||4|
|Auditory pleasure||Filled with numerous Dolly Parton hits, this shouldn’t be getting a 4 but somehow the choice of songs and their timing (injected at pivotal moments of emotion) perfectly suited what was happening on stage. Added a cute little ‘70s American sitcom atmosphere, especially with all the laughter ringing around the theatre – though this was real laughter, not the canned variety used in television.||4|
|Architecture & Theme||Brilliantly directed show, full of multiple stage transitions that all left me wanting to know what would happen next.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Genuinely believable characters: at no point did either Sue Devany nor David Judge look as if they were acting. Highly probable that the performance would not have been as appealing without the overall quality of the acting displayed.||5|
|Overall impact||Just like watching a familiar sitcom. The characters seemed to be instantly familiar as well as being comfortably realistic. Created that sense of amusing awkwardness when you’re sat in a friend’s house and their family’s being all weird and they don’t even realise it but you do.||5|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|