Now that the Bush has completed its move into the refurbished old library building in Shepherd’s Bush, it’s time to see how artistic director Josie Rourke’s final programme of new writing compares with the venue’s 40-year heritage. First up is a family drama by the venue’s associate playwright Tom Wells.
Ryan Sampson (Billy), Steffan Rhodri (Martin) and Lisa Palfrey (Kath) in The Kitchen Sink at the Bush Theatre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
The Kitchen Sink is set in Withernsea, Yorkshire, and is a gentle slice-of-life play, with a dash of teen angst thrown in. Kath and Martin are a married couple who are struggling to get by - he works as a milkman but his round is shrinking, and she works at a local school as a dinner - and lollypop - lady. They worry about their kids.
The youngest, Billy, longs to go to art school in London while his sister Sophie is training to be a jujitsu black-belt. Her boyfriend, Pete, is a young plumber who manages to fix the family’s symbolically blocked kitchen sink, but their problems run deeper than this, and Wells argues that the most you can expect is for them to make small changes.
He writes with a mixture of acute observation, emotional empathy and a love of eccentricity, so the evening is full of humorous moments as well as sad and touching ones. This is a year in the life of an obscure but humane household who live miles from the cool metropolitans that make up much of the Bush’s audience.
Tamara Harvey’s warm and tender production is both moving and funny, while Ben Stones’s open set - configured as theatre in the round - is a monument to kitchen-sink and peeling-lino realism. There are excellent performances from the whole cast - Lisa Palfrey and Steffan Rhodri are completely convincing as Kath and Martin, and Leah Brotherhead lends Sophie a proud stand-offishness while Andy Rush’s Pete is hilariously gawky; Ryan Sampson’s Billy mixes northern naivety with a dollop of camp. At the end, you could hug them all.