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The Kitchen Sink review at Coliseum Theatre, Oldham – ‘vividly written and very funny’

Sue Devaney and David Judge in The Kitchen Sink at Coliseum Theatre, Oldham. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes Sue Devaney and David Judge in The Kitchen Sink at Coliseum Theatre, Oldham. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

The family at the heart of Tom Wells’ semi-autobiographical slice of northern life – first performed at London’s Bush Theatre in 2011 – are pretty unexpectional in themselves.

But Wells tells the story of a year in their lives beset with all-too-familiar setbacks and upsets with such affection and such a keen ear for dialogue that he lifts what could have been small-scale and humdrum into something quietly exceptional.

Much of the action is played for big, broad laughs. But there is enough pathos alongside the funny exchanges and Victoria Wood-channelling product-based non sequiturs to lift it above mere sitcom – even if the episodic nature and dangling threads suggest a TV pilot in waiting rather than a self-contained theatrical entity.

Central to this is Sue Devaney’s portrayal of Kath, a brilliantly realised powderkeg of maternal love who tries to shake her family out of their change-averse stupor by adding courgette to their muffins and serving up sushi for Christmas dinner. Devaney shines as Kath belts out kitchen karaoke with her artistic, Dolly Parton-obsessed son Billy (Sam Glen) and bawls along sympathetically with husband Martin (a similarly convincing William Travis) as his beloved milk float gets taken away for scrap.

Spot-on performances from the whole cast ensure Coliseum associate director Chris Lawson’s warm, relatable production thrums with authenticity, helped by Anna Reid’s all-too-real looking set. But it is Wells’ writing that nails the messiness and imperfection of familial love best, perfectly portraying the knack our loved ones sometimes have for saying exactly the wrong thing at exactly the right moment.

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A very funny, vividly written and winningly performed depiction of the ups and downs of family life