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The Kitchen by Arnold Wesker
National Theatre Olivier, 28 September 2011


Public interest in the Gordon-esque kitchen nightmare can be explained by energy; bodies and plates colliding, the heat of the stove, chefs erupting with sheer passionate spirit. Energy, sadly, is what The Kitchen lacks.

Orders pile up in Wesker’s 1950s London kitchen. His 30-strong staff team provide a mixing pot of characters spanning races, ages and temperaments. Irish new boy Kevin (Rory Keenan) strains under 750 plaice orders, while poultry chef Frank (Neal Barry) dishes out predictable flirtation to streams of waitresses. Yet all agree that in the blaze of supper service the kitchen becomes ‘no place for a human being’.

Stylised movement, beautiful and thoughtfully choreographed in its own right, creates an unnecessary level of grace. With welcome exception of the first act’s closing lunchtime moments, and an eventual frustrated crescendo from long-term employee Peter (Tom Brooke), The Kitchen feels more mellow than manic.

While ovens roar, gasses hiss and blue flames lap sizzling pans, The Kitchen possesses all the necessary dramatic ingredients to serve up its representation of a workforce strained to breaking point by the industrial machine. Without focussed force, however, the message comes across lukewarm without commitment or clarity.

Until 9 November. Box Office: 020 7452 3000.

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