The frenetic, chaotic and, at times, balletic goings-on in a busy London- based kitchen is well realised in a revival of Arnold Wesker’s The Kitchen, currently being staged at the Olivier theatre.
Wesker’s play, originally performed in 1959 at the Royal Court, is directed by Bijan Sheibani and the Olivier’s vast stage is maximised with meticulous detail to the typical bustling late 50’s kitchen aesthetic. The actors utilise the naturalistic milieu with grace and verve as I observed with delight the brilliant stagecraft as even the gas hobs on the ovens were fully functional.
The play is set within one day and has a plethora of characters that are touched upon in small but rich detail. The central focus is on the mercurial Peter, played with Teutonic swagger, by the excellent Tom Brooke, who was last seen in the acclaimed recent production of I Am the Wind at the Young Vic.
Peter is having an illicit affair with Monique, a waitress; and has aspirations to settle down with her, but owing to his belligerent nature, finds himself arguing with her and his colleagues on more than one occasion.
The play is rich in themes and ideas that, although performed more than 50 years ago, still remain salient to this day, which is perhaps the purpose of its well-timed revival. The themes, which include racial tensions, the pursuit of love and how a mechanized and habitual way of being is destructive to your imagination and dreams, are conveyed calculatedly within this busy setting.
The kitchen itself is made up of a whole range of different nationalities which boils over when one character tells Peter and his German compatriot, Hans, to ‘Speak bloody English!’
Peter is ultimately the fulcrum of the production, becoming increasingly more capricious as the play progresses and you learn the source of his discontent. There’s a wonderful scene after the chaotic lunch service, when Peter implores his peers to speak of their dreams and they all seem to struggle to respond, numbed by the cruel machinations of their current occupational predicament and unwillingness to play.
The beautifully choreographed scenes during the first half when lunch is served explore with humour and wonderful theatricality, the rhythmic and maddening chaos that occurs within the kitchen. The boss, Marango, enters during this time and acts as the conductor of his bevy of culinary craftsmen, waitresses and washers as they waltz their way around the kitchen.
The pace of the production does seem to slow in the second half as you join the characters in a moment of peace and reflection after the chaos of lunch.
This production is wonderfully served and at £12 for a ticket, is highly recommended.
The Kitchen at the National Theatre until the 9th November
The new theatre season is among us and what an exciting time it could prove to be.
The RSC has announced a season of plays that hark back to its illustrious history as it is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. An interesting article in the Financial Times enlightened me to some of the RSC’s triumphs over the years which are clearly myriad if I am to be honest. I was pleasantly surprised and excited in equal measure in the new-found knowledge that, in the past, they have premiered 5 of Harold Pinter’s plays that include one of my favourite in the deeply unsettling, The Homecoming which is the subject of a revival in the summer. The season also sees the RSC reviving two other successes over the annals of theatrical time; Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade and Dunsinane by David Greig.
The seemingly imperialist RSC are also premiering a play at the Hampstead theatre about a spacecraft designer and very much the man behind-the-scenes of Yuri Gagarin’s first orbit around the earth, Sergei Korolyov. The play is entitled Little Eagles and runs from the 16th April to the 7th May.
With the theme of revivals firmly in mind, The Royal Court are bringing back a play that they last staged more than 50 years ago. Arnold Wesker’s Chicken Soup with Barley deals with the effect the rapidly changing world is having on a Jewish family and is set over a period of 20 years. The play will be directed by Dominic Cooke who is currently enjoying success with Clybourne Park. Cooke remarked at his excitement of directing this play, “Bringing Arnold Wesker’s play back to the Royal Court after 50 years is an exciting prospect. Chicken Soup with Barley is an epic play that spans twenty years in the life of an East End Jewish family. It vividly captures a loss of political idealism, a feeling which chimes with our own confused times.”
And finally, two Chekhov plays are set for a revival within the coming weeks. Arcola Theatre are playing host in what promises to be a new imagining of Chekhov’s classic, Uncle Vanya. This interpretation has already received critical acclaim from both The Times and The Guardian and runs from the 27th April to the 4th June.
I have to admit, owing to a little snobbery on my part, I am more excited at the prospect of seeing another of Chekhov’s plays, The Cherry Orchard, which is showing at the National this Spring. Fresh from her acclaimed performance in the brilliant All My Sons last year, Zoe Wanamaker will be playing Madame Ranevskaya and Howard Davies will be directing. It is part of the National Theatre’s excellent Travelex season so some tickets will cost only a mere £12. The Cherry Orchard runs from 10th May- 28th July