Review: Kindred, Jack Studio Theatre

Kefi Theatre’s Kindred takes a clear-eyed and compassionate look at life with mental health challenges at the Jack Studio Theatre

“You don’t know what it is like living with this
You don’t know what it is like living with you‘”

The above quote encapsulates the crux of Aimee Walker-Reid’s new play Kindred in a hugely bruising one-two. The reality of living with something like anxiety can be hugely, life-alteringly crushing as it takes over every aspect of your existence. Equally, living with someone experiencing such a condition becomes its own life-changing event, the condition being at a remove not making the challenges any less severe.

Such is life for Lois and Matt, though they’re giving it a good go. So much so in fact that they’re getting married in one week’s time. They’ve got a hell of a week to get through in the meantime though, funerals and divorce parties and all manner of family drama, all raising the unpredictability of an already volatile situation, pushing both Matt’s anxiety and Lois’ tolerance to the absolute edge.

Walker-Reid breaks up this ever-growing chaos with frequent flashbacks to earlier moments in their relationship (if I got this right, all happening on New Year Eves in the past) and this is a genius move, especially given the limited running time, as it really allows us into the beating heart of their emotional connection in their past, increasing our own engagement as things start to fall apart in the present.

Finlay Vane Last does a beautiful job as Matt, all his sensitivities on the surface of his skin but charismatic too, so it is easy to see why you too might fall for this softboi. Walker-Reid also impresses as Lois, equally charming when she’s allowed to be his partner but inevitably struggling as she’s pushed more and more into the thankless role of his carer as what is supposed to be their big day fast approaches.

Tamra Walker-Reid’s set design works well within the black box of the Jack Studio and I loved its varied hints of domestic chaos tumbling from the ceiling. George Rowlands’ astute direction paces the show well, its multiple shifts in timeline clearly defined even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of the odd tip into something slightly more expressionistic. Altogether though, an insightful and stirring drama that packs a lot into its hour.

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