Review – Kin, Royal Court

You know what is guaranteed to cheer you up if your flight has been cancelled, meaning you won’t get home for Christmas? Yep, a play about homesickness.

Kin, the new play at the Royal Court (although closing tonight, so not that new I suppose) is set in a girls prep boarding school. Mimi and Janey are best friends, but their public personas are divorced from the reality we see in private: Mimi is not the school’s golden girl and Janey is not the self confident bully she might seem.

This is all overlaid with a quite thin motif around the school play – The Crucible – all about female hysteria, false accusations and preconceived psychological theses driving justice.

The production is most notable for its use of child actors not merely in small walk-on parts with adults nearby to rescue them if something goes awry, but as the key protagonists and drivers of the story.

It is also notable for the very strong language and adult themes which it asks these children to grapple with. Quite how the Court got comfortable with this is beyond me. Without wanting to be misty eyed about the innocence of youth – which is, I suppose, the key shibboleth that this play seeks to swear out of existence – it is difficult to feel that the ends (this rather thin, muddled play) justify the means (having young people perform scenes that would be uncomfortably close to the bone for even adult actors), especially since some of the lines are so obviously played for laughs or blunt shock value.

This is certainly a brave play. You can’t fault the theatre, director or performers for not committing. What is lacking is in the script – it feels like a weak first draft and, once it plays its one interesting card of having young kids swear on stage, there’s surprisingly little here.