Dolly West’s Kitchen

The final performance for Manchester School of Theatre’s autumn season at HOME is the Frank McGuinness play Dolly West’s Kitchen.  Set in neutral Ireland during the Second World War, the play deals very much in contradictions and confusion.  It is a play that addresses contemporary issues in a historical setting, and it’s one of those plays that if you’re prepared to go along with it, to buy into the moments of surrealism, is emotionally very rewarding.

The best lines in the play go to the mother, Rima (Brogan Bailey), whose coarse language hides a very perceptive and reflective mind.  She becomes the puppet master of her family: Dolly (Elaine McNicol), unusually unmarried and back from Italy, Esther (Jasmine Perkin), unhappily married, and Justin (Jacob Kendall), officious and devout before finding love with an American soldier (Daniel Waterhouse).  But the presence of the American soldiers breaks the family dynamic and exposes both established and new wounds.  Which side does Ireland really support, or perhaps least hate?  Where do we find love, with whom, and what price do we pay for it?  In the end, how important is family?

This is a fascinating play, with the mix of second world war morals and today’s acceptance that you can choose who you want to be.  There is a delicate balance between looking back and embracing the future, but in the end it’s a very positive play.  As usual, it’s a professionally acted and staged play; built around the kitchen, the set dominates, with nice touches to create an isolated coastal atmosphere.  Characters are convincing and well formed, and you really feel for the positions in which they find themselves, although there is no doubt that some get better lines than others.  Another compelling production.

Dolly West’s Kitchen was at HOME from 1 – 3 December 2016.  For future productions follow this link.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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