[AD, Gifted] – I was asked by the Royal & Derngate Theatre Northampton to review Caroline’s Kitchen in return for free tickets to the play – this is my review.
Last night I had the pleasure of watching “Caroline’s Kitchen” a dark domestic comedy from the mind of Torben Betts, produced by Tom Hackney of The Original Theatre Company and directed by Alastair Whatley at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton.
The play follows Caroline Mortimer (played by the fabulous Caroline Langrishe), a beloved celebrity chef who has it all; an amazing career, loving family and a top end kitchen that we could only dream of. Life is good – or so it seems, but once she is away from the lights and the camera’s, a dark cloud begins to appear over her private life. A storm is brewing and it’s about to wreak havoc.
Set across the course of one day, the whole play is set in the Kitchen – the heart of the home, as we watch Caroline’s life spiral out of control, the set and the kitchen mirrors this. Starting off as a prim and proper, clean set by the end of the play it’s just like Caroline, the Kitchen is a mess – it’s broken and disjointed. Which is a subtle but very clever way of personifying an object or space to represent a characters transition or mental state. Caroline’s perfect life revolves around her work and more importantly her Kitchen, which is a mirror of herself.
For me it started off at a slow pace – I was a bit lost on what was going on and where it was going but halfway through the first act it really got into its stride and by the interval, I was hooked and on the edge of my seat. Eager for the second half to kick off and continue this mini roller coaster.
The turning point for me was the introduction of Mike (Caroline’s Golf-loving Husband, played by Aden Gillett) a retired banker who is dealing with a form of depression, looking at life in a bleak miserable way – wishing he had gotten more from life instead of working and then being left as an old broken man. Playing the role of a stereotypical upper-middle-class white man, with his casual racist and politically incorrect outlook on life, he resembled a lead from an old Ealing Studios film. Which I found hilarious and couldn’t get enough of. I guess this probably suggests something about my level of humour and old man mentality.
This is also in no disrespect to the rest of the cast, I really enjoyed both Jasmyn Banks and Elizabeth Boag’s performances. As Amanda, Caroline’s Sassy Drugged up PA and Sally a disgruntled visitor with more on her mind than a house viewing. Both of these women in my eyes dominated the play when they were on stage. Drawing focus from the likes of Caroline, Leo or Graham the remaining cast members. There is a clear divide where the cast range from amazing and captivating, to lacklustre and boring. The latter in my eyes was Graham – the carpenter. I couldn’t gauge his accent as it changed from North London to pure Northern at times. His timing wasn’t on par with the other cast mates and when he was on stage I just felt awkward wondering what he was going to say or do next. I’m not sure if it was meant to be intentional and that his character was a bit slow but sadly that is how it came across.
This was my only gripe so let’s move swiftly on and not dwell on the negatives too much.
Overall I really enjoyed this production, the best way I can describe it is by comparing it to that final episode of season one of Dr Foster. Where the truth is coming out and the repercussions are flying around that family meal. It rolled around nicely and with every comment or quip, I was left on tenterhooks waiting to see how the next character would react. It might leave you thinking what just happened for a moment but then once it has settled in you can really appreciate the tone, themes and dynamic of the play. Questioning Morality, Monogamy, Depression and Mental Health – while spreading a dark twisted sense of humour on top.
I would say this play could engage a younger generation who aren’t as ‘Into’ theatre as other generations and something like this would be a great way to spark that passion. The script is snappy and sassy which I would say would be appealing to a younger audience, but still with enough humour and references to engage a more mature audience. As I saw last night, there was young and old sitting together laughing at the same things, bringing people together.
It is showing at the Derngate Northampton for the rest of this week before moving onto Liverpool, Cheltenham and a few other places until the end of it’s run in April. I would highly recommend watching it if you get a chance. You will be pleasantly surprised.
I also want to thank the Derngate again for giving me the Opportunity to review this production.