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Review: The Kitchen

Olivier, National Theatre, London SE1

    During this sumptuous revival of the Arnold Wesker's first play, there were times when I wondered if, as he sat watching from the stalls, the author recognised his work.

    Director Bijan Sheibani has swept aside the "hellhole" realism of The Kitchen, which was written in 1957. Here, the engine room of the play's Tivoli restaurant is full of light and air. There is even enough space for the 30-strong cast who play the waitresses, cooks and kitchen workers to move in balletic unison to Dan Jones's orchestral score.

    It is a stunning way to portray the kitchen and its human ingredients as a well- (vegetable) oiled machine, even if it makes the physical hardship of the place less convincing. And Wesker's call for fellowship among the working classes – expressed by Paul (Samuel Roukin), the disillusioned Jewish pastry chef – needs that hardship to retain its power on stage.

    Still, the evening is brimful of movement, energy and - led by a dangerous Tom Brooke as the lovelorn German fish chef Peter - humanity too.

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