Review - Of Kith and Kin at the Bush Theatre
What it means to be a parent is something that’s been turned on its head over recent years. Scientific advances and legal changes mean the possibilities of who can have children, and how they do it, are vast. Chris Thompson’s Of Kith and Kin takes one particular story which starts out as a pleasant play about a gay couple’s story of having children, and shows it crumble.
Husbands Daniel and Oliver are throwing a baby shower for Priya, their heavily-pregnant friend who is the surrogate mother of their baby. The booze is flowing (for the gents only) and the threesome are dancing the night away around the living room (quite literally, courtesy of a very well-rehearsed Just Dance routine). They discuss who should be Dad and who should be Daddy. But that is possibly the lightest moment of what turns out to be a quite a nasty play.
As the night goes on, tensions fray, partly thanks to the arrival of Daniel’s mother, who Oliver detests. As insults and a few home truths around the room, things boil over – thanks, in part, to an irritating rubber duck which Oliver squeezes every time someone says something “delusional”, and the couple fight.
We're then transported to a stressful courtroom drama. As the play goes on, we see Daniel (James Lance), who is the eldest of the couple by a good few years, descend into a soap opera villain. This mostly happens in the final act, set in the couple’s nursery, as the play starts to become dramatic for drama’s sake.
We’re fed revelation after revelation which seem to be written to get a gasp from the audience – and they do - but it is often baffling as to why certain characters do certain things. Those events are just a means to an ending, and it's difficult to follow the character's train of thought.
The piece is nicely directed by Sheffield Theatres’ artistic director Robert Hastie, and the production maintains a tone of realism throughout. Chris Thompson’s story is an engaging one, and has sparks of exploring masculinity, parenthood, power and age. He manages to find humour within the tension, but eventually the characters become difficult to relate to as it is difficult to follow their thought process.
That said, they are well acted by this cast of five. Lance slowly brings out Daniel’s toxic nature to the forefront of the play, while Joshua Silver shows the vulnerable side of Oliver. Joanna Bacon doubles up as Daniel’s doddery mother Lydia, and Carrie, a tough-talking lawyer.
Chetna Pandya gives an often comic performance as Priya, who finds herself in an almost unimaginable situation as a mother. This is perhaps a story I would like to hear a little more from her character’s POV.