They say you can’t choose your family, and so it is with the cast of characters featured in Red Stitch’s new family comedy, The Kitchen Sink.
The Tom Wells-penned play, which opened to widespread critical acclaim in the UK late last year, tracks one year in the life of a family living in the faded Yorkshire seaside resort of Withernsea.
Father Martin (Russell Fletcher) is a milkman fighting a losing battle against irrelevance. Mother Kath (Christine Keogh) is a dinner lady with the patience of a saint but a complicated relationship with the play’s titular kitchen sink. Their children, Billy and Sophie (Tim Potter and Kristina Brew), are an equally eccentric pair – the former is a camp art student and the other is a frustrated martial arts hobbyist.
The only outside view into their happily dysfunctional household comes courtesy of Pete (Tim Ross), a plumber who’s frequently at the house to try and fix the sink.
“It’s a very funny play. It’s a family drama, but with characters that are all hilarious in their own way,” Ross told the Star Observer during a break in rehearsals, ahead of the play’s August 31 opening.
“The toughest thing has been this bloody Yorkshire accent. It’s quite unique, the accent, so it’s a matter of trying to get everyone sounding like they actually come from the same place.”
Father Martin’s hopeless work prospects set the tone for the whole play – a darkly comic view of Britain’s shaky economy and the effect it has on working class families.
“He’s clinging onto these last few clients that still want their milk delivered – everyone else knows they can get everything they need from Tesco, so his business is dying out, but he refuses to give up,” Ross said.
Adding to the comic frisson is Billy, the openly gay son whose sexuality is never an issue for the rest of the family. The Dolly Parton-obsessed teen lands a coveted place at a top art school thanks to a portrait he created of the singer. Trouble is, the school lauds it as a knowing deconstruction of pop art kitsch when it is, in fact, an earnest tribute to the gay icon.
“Once he gets accepted into the college, there’s this wonderful little scene where he and his mum crank the Dolly Parton up and dance around on the table miming to Dolly,” Ross said.
With five-star reviews from the UK and even a Critic’s Circle Theatre Award in its short life, Ross admitted The Kitchen Sink’s prized pedigree was helping the cast relax into the rehearsal process.
“It does give you added confidence when you’re rehearsing these scenes, knowing that the play’s already been really well received elsewhere.”
INFO: The Kitchen Sink, from August 31 at Red Stitch Actors Centre. www.redstitch.net