Monday, 12 September 2011

The Kitchen Review

The Kitchen
by Arnold Wesker

And Who's Going To Do The Washing Up?

"Talk to him, he's your generation!"  This memorable line rings out as one despairing kitchen worker tries to lessen the disruption to a large post-second-world-war cosmopolitan  restaurant. Indeed this seems a production for a generation brought up on credit-boom TV cookery programmes, where promoting sleek, clean kitchens went hand in hand with enticing folks into sub-prime mortgages.  It's a magnificent set and a production interpreting the kitchen as an enormous circus ring, where the first act ends with a literal high wire act. However, in TLT's opinion, this misses the point of this fine 1957 play - a gritty behind-the-scenes view of a working establishment where the performance is for the customers in the dining room, not in the kitchen.  Such an interpretation with moments frozen in time and balletic choreography disrupts the play's rhythm which should reflect the lulls and crescendos of  the working routine. Instead the kitchen is likened to a continuous dream-like circus performance with stylistic differences between the televisual realism of the first act short scenes and the tragedy of the second blunted. No wonder our neighbour found it confusing: It is hard work trying to find meaning in a metaphorical interpretation instead of the story!  At the same time, there are some great turns from the thirty odd ensemble cast - Ian Burfield as the ungainly beer-swigging bigot of a butcher Max sticks in the mind, Paul McCleary as the head chef who disclaims all responsibility, as well as  Bruce Myers' exotically-named, if not accented, boss Mr Marango,  and the actors sweep around the large stage effectively. But with all the distractions, some of the dialogue was lost for the audience in the circle, along with  the links between the first and second act, and therefore the story arc. At the same time, it made us realize how influential Arnold Wesker, a former pastry chef who knew what he was talking about, has been as a playwright on later plays like Trevor Griffith's Comedians and even Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.  All in all, an intriguing experiment and an amber light. And perhaps a play that could make a terrific movie (it's already been a musical in Japan!)?

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