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Kindred (Susan Elkin reviews)

Venue: Jack Studio Theatre. 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH

Credits: By Aimee Walker-Reid. Presented by Kefi Theatre. Directed by George Rowland.


3 stars

This 65-minute two-hander is, among other things, a study of family relationships (the clue is in the title) and, more centrally, an exposition of the severe mental health problems which can ensue when kinship doesn’t go well.

Matt (Finlay Vane Last) has, and has always had, a  difficult relationship with his family, especially his mother, which has left him agoraphobic and prone to panic attacks. Now that his father has died, things are worse – not least when he discovers that he has been cut out of the will on grounds of mental instability.

The funeral is at the beginning of the week in which he is to marry his live-in girl friend, Lois (Aimee Walker-Reid) so tensions are running high. We see two strong performances with actors playing well off each other in all moods. There’s some pretty powerful abuse shouting towards the end.

Living with Matt is difficult. He isn’t working. The flat is “shit” (they say) and that’s rather neatly connoted in Tamara Walker-Reid’s set which includes randomly suspended objects such as a toaster, an ironing board and a spilled pot plant. He is meant to be taking pills to ease his condition but is in denial about his need for them. And, we realise towards the end of the play that he is irrationally hiding things as well as drinking too much. He is, moreover, unhealthily obsessed with news and newspapers.

Lois tries hard to be patient with him and ricochets between sympathetic kindness and relentless fury. In general it’s a well observed bit of relationship dynamics as we work through her having to speak at her sister’s divorce party and a wedding rehearsal dinner during the week which also includes Lois going to her regular art class and out to work.

The device of having a wall calendar from which they tear sheets to mark the passing days as the week progresses is simple but effective until  it includes flashbacks to their first meeting and then it becomes confusing.

The play itself is bumpy, mixing as it does funeral blues, pre-wedding nerves and implausible off-stage violence. Is it really likely that a mother would punch her own son in the face at his father’s funeral? These purport to be sensible, educated people, not drunken thugs.

Moreover, I was expecting Lois to lose patience and call the wedding off but maybe that would have been too obvious. As it is the ending is unsatisfactorily obfuscatory – in short a bit of a cop out.


First published by Sardines

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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