Families are complex and irrational. Christopher Thomas’ Of Kith and Kin, currently being premiered at the Crucible Studio Theatre, explores the complex web of emotions that both binds and divides families.
Of Kith and Kin tells the story of Daniel and Oliver, a couple having a baby through surrogacy. The surrogate is a long-standing family friend, Priya, who previously carried her sister’s child and wants to help the men complete their family.This might bring to mind issues around surrogacy, family and a formulaic ending, but this play is far from predictable.
In keeping with its description as a dark comedy, there are some very entertaining moments, often centred on Oliver’s belligerent mother-in-law, played by Joanna Bacon. The audience’s laughter during the first scene is quickly twisted, questioned, and turned into concern as the darker sides of the characters are slowly revealed.
“Each member of the audience feels deeply, almost intrusively, involved”
The drama spans a three-scene journey from the couple’s lounge, to a courtroom, and finally to a child’s nursery. The sets are simple, enclosed spaces that allow the characters to perform to each other, rather than artificially turning to an audience at the front of a stage. The intimacy of the Crucible Studio lends a captivating intensity to this effect , ensuring that each member of the audience feels deeply, almost intrusively, involved in the lives of the characters.
The characters love each other in different ways, as parents, lovers and friends, cunningly masking a cycle of abuse. The play raises extremely topical questions about the nature of abuse and the sad reality of how easily it can be ignored, or worse still, normalised.
Of Kith and Kin subverted all of my expectations, leaving me questioning the difference between what people want and what they feel is their inherent right.
The ending is one that haunts you long after you have left the theatre.