Review: Caroline’s Kitchen, Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre
PUBLISHED: 16:30 28 February 2019
Guess what? Celebrities’ lives are not perfect! If you fancy a comedy that reminds you of Macbeth and laminate flooring (you need to read the review), then this heady mix of jokes and out-and-out violence is for you, says Katie Jarvis, who now knows how to make really good roast potatoes
Of all the jobs I wouldn’t like to do, ‘chef’ is the job I wouldn’t like to do-est. (Admittedly, I’ve dodged that particular bullet by not being able to cook.) Chefs are heroic; chefs work – often – in tiny kitchens, orders flying at them like sparrows in a Hitchcock film; chefs congregate outside the nearest exit, desperately dragging on a smoke between sparrow-attacks, before heading home in deepest night to pour boiling water on Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodles.
Now, throw into that particular mix ‘celebrity chefdom’ and you’ve got a recipe for… well, for Caroline’s Kitchen, a comedy by Torben Betts, directed by Alastair Whatley.
It is a comedy. But it’s a comedy with more ingredients than a Jamie Oliver dish. (You know: those recipes where you end up buying 27 things you’ve never heard of, none of which you’ll ever use again; the kind of recipe that sees you in Waitrose, tearfully telling an assistant, ‘Well, he says it has to be dukkah.’)
Caroline (Caroline Langrishe) is a woman of a certain age (aren’t we all), famous for her television cookery programmes. Her 25-year-old assistant Amanda (Jasmyn Banks) is on the cusp of blossoming into Sybil Fawlty. Her son, Leo (Tom England), has just got a first in history and politics-or-something from Cambridge, via Eton. Her husband, Mike (Aden Gillett) has been out on the golf course and, even as he putted, getting ready for the ‘Big Sleep’ – a death-fear exacerbated by one of his golfing partners just that morning, in front of his very eyes, keeling over and permanently croaking. “Face in the grass; arse in the air… Lucky bastard.”
But there are more problems looming than there are lumps in my white sauce. Caroline has been snapped by the Daily Mail, falling down drunk in the gutter. Mike has had an affair and is desperate for forgiveness. What he doesn’t know is that Caroline is also having an affair - with (very) handyman Graeme (James Sutton). Graeme’s wife, Sally (Elizabeth Boag), meanwhile, has secretly turned up, bent on revenge.
And Leo has a ‘shocking’ announcement to make.
Warning: the above constitutes the simple version.
“I’m guessing this is a farce,” I say to Ian, during the interval, in a shell-shocked kind of way.
The perceptive woman in the seat behind me, meanwhile, thinks differently. “There’s kind of an underlying theme about death and God,” I overhear her saying to her friend. “Like Macbeth. By the way, I saw some laminate flooring that I quite like.”
So what did I think?
Jolly good question.
Firstly, there are some cracking jokes, particularly around the subject of veganism. (‘Vegetarian’ in Neolithic means ‘shit hunter’. That was a corker.)
Secondly, there are some cracking performances (though, on more than one occasion, various characters seemed to be appearing in their own separate comedy shows, each of which happened to be taking place on the same stage).
But, come on!
How many parents nowadays would really be shocked by a child declaring they were gay? 2021’s true out-of-the-closet moment (and I have to be honest and say I just don’t know how I’d react myself) would be a child sitting you down to say, “Mum, I have to tell you this… I voted Brexit.” Dreadful thing for any parent to have to face.
And, finally, do we really need to be told that celebrity lives aren’t quite the happy, shiny, home to a Farrow & Ball-painted mansion they like to portray?
No. You’d need to tackle my cousin’s social media pages for that to be in any way meaningful to me.
So if you accept that Caroline’s Kitchen isn’t going to have you stumbling out of the theatre going, “My god. And I thought Macbeth was a brilliant analysis of the human psyche”, then go and enjoy the mania.
As I did. Plus I now know how to make really good roast potatoes.
Caroline’s Kitchen runs up until Saturday, March 2 at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham. Book tickets here or via the Box Office on 01242 572573.