Dolly West’s Kitchen

May 29 2015 | By More

★★★★★    Feisty fighting

The Studio at the Festival Theatre: Weds 27 – Sat 30 May 2015

Dolly West’s Kitchen tells the tale of war; war between countries, war within families and the personal wars everyone fights. It’s feisty, it’s fun and, with powerful themes and unpredictable twists, it certainly grips and entertains.

Set in 1943 in the Republic of Ireland in the midst of the Second World War, Dolly West’s kitchen is a meeting place for family, friends and strangers.

Esther Anna Justin Marco Jamie Dolly Rima Alec. Photo Marion Donohoe

Esther (Jennie Davidson), Anna (Nicole Irvine), Justin (Matthew Thomson), Marco (Iain MacDonald), Jamie (David Rennie), Dolly (Jane Black), Rima (Irene Cuthbert) and Alec (Andy Harris). Photo: Marion Donohoe

The play opens with Dolly West (Jane Black), a single woman recently returned to Buncrana in Donegal after living in Florence. She’s now home living in her mother Rima (Irene Cuthbert)’s house, along with elder sister Esther (Jennie Davidson) and her husband Ned (Callum Thomson), their younger brother Justin (Matthew Thomson) and the housemaid Anna (Nicole Irvine).

This family unit is joined by three foreigners, the quietly superior English officer Alec (Andy Harris), the flamboyant American soldier Marco (Iain MacDonald) and his fellow soldier and cousin, Jamie (David Rennie). The story develops through the wars inside and outside the kitchen, with tensions mounting between home and away, gay and straight, protestant and catholic, them and us.

As the play progresses though it’s clear that what really matters are the people and their relationships. Leitheatre deliver a strikingly honest production about the nature of relationships, the concept of happiness and the choices we make.

strong deliveries aplent

Frank McGuinness’ play, first staged in 1999, is a strong and full of character, one that can only succeed with a strong cast and delivery. While some of the casting choices aren’t necessarily always a perfect fit, there are strong deliveries aplenty.

Jamie (David Rennie), Marco (Iain MacDonald), Justin (Matthew Thomson), Esther (Jennie Davidson) and Rima (Irene Cuthbert). Photo Marion Donohoe

Jamie (David Rennie), Marco (Iain MacDonald), Justin (Matthew Thomson), Esther (Jennie Davidson) and Rima (Irene Cuthbert). Photo: Marion Donohoe

With director Colin Peter bringing out performances that could rival any professional production, Leitheatre create a realistic and comforting picture of everyday life. One that lulls the audience into an Irish sense of home but, importantly, one which still has the power to surprise and shock out of that comfort zone.

Irene Cuthbert steals the show as Rima, Dolly’s mother. She’s not only cantankerous, outspoken and defiant, but she always says what she means. She times her delivery to perfection, giving a delicious mix of charm, cheek and profanity.

These too are qualities she’s passed down to her family. Jane Black as Dolly, Jennie Davidson as Esther and Matthew Thomson as Justin are all strong-willed and passionate.

frustration bubbling under

Jane Black plays Dolly with passion and vigour, she creates an endearing character who acts as a centring force within the home. Davidson plays the unhappy housewife Esther, bound by her sense of morality and duty. She quietly accepts her fate, but it is clear to see her frustration bubbling under the surface, especially when she jars against her sister.

Esther (Jennie Davidson) and Ned (Callum Thomson). Photo Marion Donohoe

Esther (Jennie Davidson) and Ned (Callum Thomson). Photo: Marion Donohoe

Thomson as the younger brother Justin also delivers a great performance. He demonstrates a fantastic depth of character growing as the play progresses, he moves from volatile, bigoted nationalistic Irish officer to calm, accepting and loving partner.

The attention to detail in this production is impressive. In places the drama splits between two or three scenes running concurrently and this is very well delivered by both set and cast.

Overall, a very well executed and enjoyable production that delivers near faultless performances. And while everyone may not get a happy ending, it certainly goes out with a bang.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)
The Studio at Festival Theatre, 22 Potterrow, EH8 9BL
Wednesday 27 – Saturday 30 May 2015
Evenings: 7.30pm
Tickets and details from:
Leitheatre website:


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. EPT Workshops : All Edinburgh | May 10 2016