The Kitchen (National Theatre)

Originally published on my LiveJournal blog on 9 November 2011.

Last night we attended the revival of Arnold Wesker’s 1957 play set in a post-war restaurant, ‘The Kitchen’.  With a cosmopolitan, international cast of characters with their hopes and dreams growing in a brave new world after the Second World War, this piece must have really packed a punch when it was first staged, without an interval, at the Royal Court in Sloane Square. 

Cast and set of The Kitchen in the National's Olivier.
Cast and set of The¬†Kitchen in the National’s Olivier.

This is the second major revival – previously the play reappeared to acclaim at the Royal Court in 1994 under Stephen Daldry’s direction.  Here at the National, directed by Bijan Shebani with a thirty piece cast (no big names, but Tom Brooke shines as German chef Peter).  The problem with it is that the political and social dimensions at work in the second half no longer have resonance in the 21st century.  The first half with its busy kitchen and service is lost in noise and smoke, with chunks of dialogue inaudiable from the circle.

Ultimately, although this play is good, it is showing its age and we no longer care about the characters or their dilemmas.  It’s a play which no longer needs or merits a revival.