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Isabella James

Review: OF KITH AND KIN at Bush Theatre

ThOf Kith and Kin is is an incredibly dramatic new play by Chris Thompson, directed by Robert Hastie, which pulls the audience along a roller-coaster of emotions in three contrasting acts.

Of Kith and Kin opens in the stylish flat of Daniel (James Lance) and husband Oliver (Joshua Silver), who are hosting a baby shower for their unborn son. The party is attended by only one guest of honour, their best friend Priya (Chetna Pandya), who is heavily pregnant with said bundle of joy. The audience observe the trio’s tight bond as we watch them reminisce, discuss parenthood, and dance to Jessie J on the Wii. All seems well... Until the doorbell rings and Daniel’s mother Lydia (Joanna Bacon) arrives.

The actors relish the comedy that naturally comes from the awkward, frictious dynamic between Oliver (Silver)and his mother-in-law, with plenty of laughs from a squeaking rubber duck. However, it isn’t long before the tension bubbles over, the laughter stops, and waters break.

The second act is almost an entirely different play. Set in a family courtroom three months later, parental rights are now up for dispute and Daniel (Lance) is begging to hold ‘his son’ in his arms. Whilst the level of acting keeps the audience on tenterhooks, most sense of reality has been left behind. Bacon changes roles to become the solicitor, hell-bent on persecuting Daniel (Lance) for a list of allegations, all of which prove him an unsuitable father. The level of drama now reaches soap opera heights as accusations are thrown around the courtroom whilst the judge (Donna Berlin) intersects sarcastically. If it were played out as a surreal nightmare sequence ,it would perhaps have had greater impact, but it ends up almost hysterical in its sheer melodrama.

The third act grounds us again - Lance delivers a fantastic performance as the broken Daniel. The couple now face uncertainty around so much more than just who will be Dad and who will be Daddy, but also what it means to take on that role. The audience are left questioning who they believe deserves the baby and, as Daniel astutely points out, if “Peggy-Sue from Croydon can lie on her back with her legs in the air and no one bats an eyelid”, then why should parenthood be something that needs to be earnt?