Playwright Torben Betts has come up with a new recipe for his haute cuisine comedy, Caroline’s Kitchen, tinkering with the ingredients to create a new dish about depression and discontent in the home of a masterchef.
But does it pass the taste test? Formerly called Monogamy, Caroline’s Kitchen opened at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate last night and it’s a slow boiler that takes a while to get going, but eventually leaves the audience fairly replete.
It’s rare that a writer has another crack at his work. Once complete a play is usually locked down and considered finished.
But last year, after Monogamy toured the UK and had a run in London, Betts returned to it and, in his words, “improved the play a little”.
Caroline’s Kitchen is set in the heart of a multi-million pound North London home where TV chef, Caroline Mortimer films her celebrity-stuffed show.
She’s the darling of the cookery circuit, loved and adored by millions. Caroline seemingly has the perfect life, an idyllic family, a gorgeous home and a successful career.
But the veneer is wafer thin. As we’ve all seen, with a succession of well-known names dragged through the national media, there’s no such thing as perfection.
Life in Chez Mortimer is about to combust. The chef is frequently pickled; a national paper is to print embarrassing photos of her in her cups; her privileged, Cambridge-educated son, plans to drop a bombshell or two; her husband is suffering a mid-life crisis and she’s screwing the handyman.
Caroline Langrishe, no stranger to comedy, works hard to invest Caroline Mortimer with some humanity but is hampered by stodgy dialogue.
The laughs don’t really come until the arrival of her husband, Mike (Aden Gillett).
Gillett’s homophobic, bi-polar banker is overpowering but his huge personality brings the production to life.
The problem with Caroline’s Kitchen, and Monogamy, is that all of its characters are monstrously appalling. They are awful and we really can’t find a soupçon of sympathy for any of them.
Each and every one of them has “issues”. They’re depressed, despondent and desperately unhappy but why should we care?
Worse, son Leo’s “bombshell” is so passé. It would have been twee more than 20 years ago but in a nice middle-class, North London, household it’s almost de rigueur today.
It certainly wouldn’t provoke the outrage that it does (from a dinosaur like Mike) while his mother’s shocking comments are deeply offensive in this day and age.
There are lines, particularly from Mike, that hit home to theatre-goers of a certain age but, generally, the laughs are few and far between.
Still not a great comedy but one which is lifted by Gillett’s rousing turn.
Caroline’s Kitchen runs on the Royal stage until Saturday, February 16.
The tour continues to:
Everyman Theatre, Liverpool (Feb 19 – 23); Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham (Feb 25 – March 2); Norwich Theatre Royal ( March 6 – 9); Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne ( March 12 – 16); Theatre Royal Bath (March 25 – 30); Connaught Theatre, Worthing (April 3 – 6) and Mercury Theatre, Colchester (April 9 – 13).
Aden Gillett is cooking on gas in Torben Betts’s Caroline’s Kitchen, but the comedy still struggles for laughs despite improvements from its author.