The sink in question here lies in a dilapidated family home in Withernsea, Yorkshire. Kath has to whack the taps with a hammer to get them going and plunge the sink for all she’s worth to work up a bit of drainage.
This new family drama by Bush associate Tom Wells is a meditation on movement, leaks and blockages, as Kath tries to launch her family into their own lives. Husband Martin’s milk float sounds like it has asthma and, with his customers defecting to Tescos or the grave, he hasn’t the cash to fix it.
Son Tom dreams of London, art school, a boyfriend and a fitting avenue for his penchant for Dolly Parton. And scowling, jujitsu-obsessed daughter Sophie won’t let her plumber boyfriend get close to her. A shame, as he’s the only one qualified to unblock the family pipework.
Extended metaphors aside, Wells’s play is propped up with rickety cultural clichés. The North is ‘knackered and funny and falling in the sea’, a good place to set a play and a bad place to end up. Londoners wear ripped jeans and lie about what they like. Boys adore their mothers and girls learn martial arts because they’re internally bruised.
But Tamara Harvey’s beautiful production irons out every tic and delivers a hugely engaging drama of family life and loss. It’s also a comic triumph: Ryan Sampson’s brooding Billy is exquisite and Steffan Rhodri’s Martin rumbles with repressed rage at his economic impotence.
But it’s Lisa Palfrey’s Kath that is the play’s truest creation. Palfrey’s performance is superb, and so full of anguished love, it’s a wonder she doesn’t spring a leak.
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