Reviewed at the Embassy Theatre, London.
Fifty-four years after its premiere at London’s Royal Court, Arnold Wesker’s The Kitchen continues to be staged and re-interpreted. Students from the Central School of Speech & Drama’s MA Music Theatre course performed the musical adaption of the play which is a powerful collaboration between the lyricist Nigel Forde and musical directors Derek Barnes and Barrington Pheloung. The musical was first performed in 2000 in Tokyo.
Wesker’s play focuses on the day-to-day lives of a group of characters, who vary in terms of background, which Max – played convincingly by Stuart Murray – despises. However, the characters are united in their entrapment within the hectic and hellish kitchen. It is while in this environment that childlike aspirations slowly disappear, and, in its place, comes disillusion.
The ensemble worked well, particularly within the opening scenes, to re-create the frenetic pace of the kitchen, so credit to Janie Dee’s direction and Benny Maslov’s choreography. The cast whizzed and leapt as they juggled plates and cups in an effort to meet the demands set by the allusive Marango (Jesse Cooper) who maintained that his workers would not find a better job because they ‘earned good money’ with him.
The waitresses – Micaela Pineda, Nadya Corscadden, Lainie Pahos, Sofia Moura and Rosie Watson – also offered solid performances as they filed in and out of the kitchen with precision and poise, chuckling about being given the left over remnants of food. The ironic ‘Waitresses’ Lament’ was performed energetically.
Emily Mae Winters, in her role as the damaged Monique, worked well as the opposite to the other waitresses, singing despondently about her wish for a better life. She was accompanied by a strong band led by the conductor, musical director and composer Derek Barnes.
The intriguing relationship between Monique and Peter, played by Felix Mosse, was well executed in the beginning as their explosive relationship was reflected through short encounters. Winters offered a strong rendition of the sentimental ‘Where is the Heart of a Man?’, while Mosse gave an enthusiastic performance as the volatile Peter. Yet, the result of their romantic storyline occasionally lacked poignancy due to the musical’s long subplots which detracted from their relationship.
Ultimately, though, CSSD created a production which impressed due to its focus on spectacle and movement.