Caroline’s Kitchen: A Review
Caroline’s Kitchen invites the audience into a conventionally middle-class kitchen, so brightly lit and well-furnished it seems impossible to tell where to draw the line between the TV set of Caroline’s dazzling career and her not-so dazzling real life: which is exactly the point.
Written by Torben Betts and directed by Alastair Whatley, Caroline’s Kitchen puts the everyday banality of domestic life under a witty and darkly comic magnifying glass, unearthing the dynamic of flawed human relationships at their most damaging. Produced by The Original Theatre Company in partnership with Ghost Light Theatre and Eilene Davidson, the production was a slick and well-oiled exercise in modern theatre- exhibiting the talent of each member of their cast throughout.
Caroline Langrishe stars as Caroline, with Aden Gillett as her (golf) loving husband Mike and their recent Cambridge graduate son, Leo (Tom England.) The trio are a classic picture of a family in crisis, with Caroline’s glittering career increasingly threatened by her excessive drinking which comes to breaking point when a series of photos find their way into the paparazzi’s hands. This combined with Mike’s obsessive golf-playing, casual-racism and complete lack of social awareness makes their son Leo’s desperate need for paternal comfort a toxic cocktail of resentment just simmering beneath the surface of middle-class domesticity.
Throw in the brassy persona of Amanda, Caroline’s high-energy, even-higher-pitched assistant, who’s bubbly façade fails to disguise a scared young woman with a troubling relationship history. Likewise, Graeme, the unassuming builder, turns out to be doing more work in the house than what it appears. So, when his wife Sally suddenly makes an unexpected arrival, the whole household descends into drunken chaos. Two couples, one assistant and a son: it turns out a lot can happen under one roof.
We laugh, crucially at moments when we really shouldn’t; but more importantly, we relate. That is part of what makes the script of Caroline’s Kitchen so effective. Loneliness, mid-life crises and heartbreak are at the forefront of this darkly comic production, exploring real-life issues and struggles that challenge real-life people. This is a play in which what is not said is perhaps just as important as what is. Performed at the Everyman theatre, the thrust stage allows for a highly intimate viewing experience in which the audience aren’t just spectators watching the chaos unfold, we actively participate in the layers of deception and secrecy that bubble beneath the facade of domestic bliss.
In many ways, this production highlights the challenges faced by the working mother, shining a spotlight on the position of women in the home. Career-focused and driven for success, Caroline embodies many of the tensions faced by working women with families, dramatising the constant battle between the expectations of society and the personal needs of the individual, on top of those of her family. The needs of her husband are tangible but demanding, and between dealing with her torn feelings for a much younger man, she must simultaneously balance the threat of malicious publicity with her increasingly problematic relationship with her son. There’s certainly plenty to get your teeth into, and enough to go round.
Hungry for a hot serving of sizzling new theatre? Head down to Caroline’s Kitchen.
Caroline’s Kitchen is at the Everyman until Saturday 23rd February. For tickets, visit: https://tickets.everymanplayhouse.com or call 0151 709 4776.