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The Theatreguide.London Review

Of Kith And Kin
Bush Theatre   Autumn 2017

I've had a few occasions recently to comment in a review that a play began with a soap-opera-level plot or premise and managed to rise above it.

Chris Thompson's new drama does not, and feels from start to finish like a secondary plot line in EastEnders or any other TV soap. 

Gay couple Daniel and Oliver are going to have a baby, with old friend Priya happily offering her womb as a surrogate. Only a visit from Daniel's mother, a virtuoso passive-aggressive meddler, exposes some cracks in the picture. 

Two things happen offstage between Acts One and Two Priya has the baby and decides to go back on her deal and keep it. So the second act finds them in court, where Priya's female lawyer does a pretty good job of making Daniel in particular look like an undesirable parent. 

Act Three shows the aftermath, in which nobody does anything that is believable outside the high-emotional-octane world of soap opera, the 1975 film Kramer Vs Kramer is openly borrowed from, and what would seem the least desirable resolution is presented as a happy ending. 

Somewhere in here are the valid and valuable insights that seemingly solid personalities, relationships and friendships can be more fragile than they appear, and that any big change in a situation, even a happy one, can be disruptive. 

But both of those messages depend on the shock of recognition, on our accepting what we see first as real and then believing what replaces it. And there is simply too little in Of Kith And Kin that seems part of our world rather than Coronation Street's. 

James Lance, Joshua Silver and Chetna Pandya strive valiantly to bring some believability to their characters, while Joanna Bacon and Donna Berlin do what they can with one-dimensional supporting roles.

Every one of them has moments of looking lost and unsure onstage, betraying along with the general failure to suggest real life in the production too little help and guidance from director Robert Hastie.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Of Kith And Kin - Bush Theatre 2017

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