Visually, as well as script-wise, The Kitchen is one of the most enjoyable theatre productions that I’ve seen for a long time. Almost a cross between a play and a musical. The actors don’t sing but their stage directions and movements are beautifully choreographed so that they literally dance around each other and across the stage throughout.
An enchanting behind-the-scenes look at the lives of a restaurant’s group of employees, The Kitchen is a ‘melting pot’ personified. The English, Irish, French and German characters, of varying ages and backgrounds, have been thrown together to work as chefs, waitresses and porters, creating the perfect setting to explore relationships between co-workers, friends and lovers. And whilst the play may have been written in the 1950s, many of social and racial issues highlighted are still completely relevant today.
The cast rise brilliantly to the production’s challenges. Multiple choreographed elements take place simultaneously throughout, as the characters dance and glide their way through their individual interactions with each other. And despite a lack of actual ingredients, the chefs cook up an amazingly realistic storm. You really do believe that they’re chopping, seasoning and flambéing, whilst real flames on the stoves and perfectly-timed, sizzling sound effects aid the illusion of a fully working kitchen. The wonderful choreography is also used ingeniously to help tell the characters’ personal stories. The stage lighting is fairly constant throughout but a spotlight is created physically by freezing the actions of characters not involved in certain scenarios and discussions, directing the audience’s focus to where the action is at that particular time. Then, during one particularly charming moment in the first half, the monotony of their working day is demonstrated perfectly when the entire cast comes together and dances as one, clearly going through the motions.
I loved The Kitchen. I felt like I was witnessing real stories being played out by real people. And with choreography and movement that Wayne McGregor would be proud of, it is definitely one of my surprise hits of the year.