Review: Kin, Royal Court

“Small dogs in packs and pairs, doing what small dogs do”

Set in an all-girls boarding school in the 1990s, EV Crowe’s Kin is the last show of 2010 to show upstairs at the Royal Court. Crowe’s writing was also featured in Clean Break’s Charged at the Soho Theatre with the short play Doris Day about the challenges for modern policewomen but this show looks at what could happen when young girls are cooped together in the claustrophobic atmosphere of boarding school, away from familial guidance.

It focuses on two girls Mimi and Janey who have a complex friendship which is further complicated by another girl Nina accusing Janey of bullying. And so rivalries, burgeoning sexualities, precociousness and fraught emotions bubble up. The narrative is non-linear here though, a complicating factor which adds nothing and actually detracts from things as it all adds up to very little, fragments of scenes threatening to come to chilling life but hardly any actually achieving that and given the short running time combined with this structure, I didn’t feel like Crowe’s writing actually said anything and left me unmoved and completely indifferent to what I had just seen.

There are moments that stand out, the loneliness of this enforced separation from families, the inadequacies of the phone call home (in a pre-mobile age), the cruelties that can be wrought on contemporaries at any age. But for all of these, there’s a clunker to go along with it, the school play being a production of The Crucible is beyond heavy-handed and a depressing realisation that the writing isn’t strong to cope without such direct allusions and the reliance on so much profanity coming from these young girls feels artificially maintained, designed to shock rather than dramatically necessary.

It was well-acted for the most part by the young company, the three young girl roles are alternated but I couldn’t see any mention of who was playing on this particular night. Annette Badland’s housemistress stood out amongst the older performers but working with so little, one is ultimately left disappointed and unfulfilled. With prices going up to £20 for the upstairs shows at the Royal Court and a series of mostly underwhelming shows up here this year, it does feel like I could be venturing here a little less next year.

Running time: 70 minutes (with no interval)
Photo: Johan Persson

Playtext cost: £3
Booking until 23rd December
Note: Bad language

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