Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London SW1
Opened 24 November, 2010
Sometimes it’s hard to avoid feeling ancient at the Royal Court. Polly Stenham’s tales of neglected mid-teens began the trend, then earlier this year came Anya Reiss’s Spur Of The Moment, about barely-teen sexuality. Now E.V. Crowe’s Kin deals with ten-year-old girls at boarding school. Put it this way: when a member of the second-generation cast of Channel 4’s Skins appears here as one of the oldies, anyone over 30 seems positively antediluvian.
Mimi is a bright girl, but socially diffident; her roommate Janey is domineering, one might even say bullying sometimes, but not the kind of monster that blighted my and many others’ school days nor the kind that housemistress Mrs B imagines as she compiles her report. We see friendships, likes and dislikes, power plays both trivial and more serious, uncertainties and insecurities. Both feel out of touch in time and space with their parents: the play is set in the 1990s, close enough to feel contemporary but conveniently devoid of email and mobile phones. Really, they feel out of touch with everyone: family, staff, each other, even themselves. Crowe does not go for overblown adolescent existential angst, but simply shows in succeeding scenes thoughts and feelings that are radically inconsistent but in no way dishonest.
Jeremy Herrin gets fine, unwinsome performances out of his young cast; at the performance I saw, Ciara Southwood was accomplished as Mimi and (confusingly) Mimi Keene appropriately assured as Janey. It has to be said, though, that even in the studio space upstairs, diction could be a problem; two or three times Southwood caught herself gabbling and alertly went back to correct herself. But perhaps the play suffers similarly from diction problems in a thematic sense. In this case, having Mimi confronted by an informing classmate and Annette Badland’s over-zealously interrogating Mrs B shortly after the girl has played John Proctor in the school production of The Crucible amounts to over-crisply enunciating matters. I’m also not entirely sure that the play’s position is as I have described it; it may be intended to bear out, to some degree at least, Mrs B’s assertion that the girls “are small dogs in packs or pairs, doing what small dogs do”. Certainly both behaviour and language directly challenge our collective fetishisation of youthful innocence, but to no clear conclusion.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2010

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage