Anxiety, depression, and self-doubt have long appeared in modern drama. Kitchen Sink, a new play by Sophie Sood, continues this tradition, but does so in a way which manages to avoid many of the usual thematic tropes.
The play traces the trials and tribulations of a group of friends who all live in a flat in New York City. These characters are all, however, the creations of a young writer – Daisy – who was sensitively played by Georgiana Day. The scenes are broken up into vignettes which are moderated by her meta-fictional monologues, giving the scenarios that she is creating a self-aware and somewhat existential dimension.
What makes Daisy fascinating is the way in which she is used to illustrate the characters. One could be tempted, in viewing a play in which so many characters struggle against issues of identity and insecurity, to see this thematic repetition as a weakness; here, however, it becomes a great strength by allowing us to witness what are, in essence, different embodiments of the narrator’s personal struggles.
We see the writing process itself playing out on stage before us, and this other dimension transforms the narrative into something much more intriguing and profound. Every scene seems to bear the imprint of Sood and her passionate devotion to exploring the significance of authorship and of life’s complexities. Each actor is given a chance to explore the depth of his or her character, and there are stand-out moments from every member of the ensemble. Gaby (Lila Pitcher), Jill (Eilidh Northridge), Natasha (Stephanie Weaver), James (Luke Morley), and Tony (John Spilsbury) possess such a strong understanding of their characters, and there is a subtlety to their idiosyncrasies which makes their interactions all the more relatable.
The play as a whole is quite consistently melancholic, but there is a moment in which, suddenly, everything seems to be going well for all of the characters. As the flatmates gather around the couch and reflect on their recent successes, it feels almost as if we are about to end on an optimistic note – an occurrence we are so used to observing in much of our modern entertainment. But the rug is pulled out from under us, and the play just as suddenly comes to its lowest point. We are instead left with the sense that what we have just experienced has been almost tongue-in-cheek; life, it seems, is not so easy.
Daisy’s thought-provoking epilogue admirably avoids the common pitfalls of much modern storytelling by leaving us with a message not of unbounded hope or dread, but of ambivalence. Sood’s play itself, however, manages to escape its own sceptical diagnosis—it is an impressive work, and there is no doubt about that.
Photo courtesy of the Edinburgh University Theatre Company