Lion and Unicorn Theatre
Kean Street Productions
Two estranged sisters meet after twenty years. In a remote cottage over a few days they bury the hatchet. As their dying father lies in the room next door they are forced to confront who they were and who they’ve become. When the only person they have in common disappears, is their relationship worth saving?
Kin focuses on two sisters reunited by the imminent death of their father. The sisters, Sarah (Priti Colbeck) and Lily (Matsume Kai) have very different outlooks and approach to life. Sarah is career driven, using her work and busy schedule to explain her lack of commitment to any form of relationships. Lily, on the other hand, is bound by duty and responsibility, caring for her own family and her essentially estranged father despite the wrongs he committed in the past.
Over its 70 minutes duration, writer (Max Dickins) and director (David Fairs) are able to weave in a significant amount of material by focusing on the interactions of only two characters, exploring their past and buried resentment in depth. The window of the flat, where the entire play is staged, is portrayed by chalk drawings of a window on a blackboard. The switches between calm, uncaring small talks and shouting matches are cleverly intercepted by Lily wiping off the drawing of the sun to replace it with the moon, or vice versa, on the chalk board, whilst the use of background music to reflect the passage of time provides a natural and realistic transition between emotions. While it is clear that both sisters have bottled up feelings and angers towards each other, there are also hints of playfulness and a desire to reconnect by reminiscing on more joyful childhood experiences. This constant back and forth between anger and joy is artfully used to drive the story forward.
It’s mentioned repeatedly that Lily, despite her apparent lack of career related successes, is the clever one of the family. Yet it’s Sarah who uses overcomplicated sentences, which at times feel like they were memorised and torn out of a classic novel. Used sparingly, and in a targeted way, this could showcase Sarah’s desire to demonstrate her superiority over her sister. While this might have been the intention, this element is not sufficiently articulated, leaving it feeling overused. It then blurs the line as to whether Sarah has deliberately crafted her responses because of her insecurities or if this is simply her normal, albeit unnatural, speech pattern.
Although the sisters are reconnected by their ailing father, he does not make a physical appearing. His non-cohesive mutters can be heard through the baby monitor, occasionally interrupting the sisters’ fights. However, while it adds a certain level of comic and tension relief, it doesn’t seem necessary for the progression of the story. At the conclusion, Lily reflects on the happier times she shared with her sister, playing footage from an old fashion film reel projector. While this could be impactful, the projection is too small and the quality too low for the audience to appreciate the detail of what’s shown.
These issues aside, Kin is well crafted and realistic, showcasing the tension of confrontation between two sisters as they come head-to-head with each other during their short reunion. It demonstrates that sometimes, the passage of time doesn’t dilute resentments, instead it can intensify emotions.