The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Kitchen spans a day’s work at a large London restaurant. At the beginning of part 1, the stage is in semidarkness (there are no curtains). It gradually comes into full light as Magi, the night porter, lights five ovens in succession. As each oven is lit, it emits a hum; the effect of all five ovens is a roar, which continues at varying levels throughout the play.

Members of the day staff, of many nationalities, enter in ones and twos, exchange greetings, and take up their allotted stations to start preparing food. Waitresses move in and out on their way to the dining room at the back, with trays of glasses or piles of plates.

The bantering repartee ranges over various personal issues, but the main topic is a fight that occurred between two of the cooks—Peter, a German, and Gaston, a Cypriot—the previous evening, when most of the staff had gone home. Several different versions are given, some with racial overtones. The men are mainly critical of Peter, but Anne, the Irish woman serving coffee and desserts, reminds them that Peter is in a difficult emotional state because he is in love with Monique, a married waitress. Monique enters and presents Peter’s role in the fight in a rather heroic light.

Peter, a young, boisterous, but good-natured cook at the fish station, arrives late and tries to effect a reconciliation with Gaston, but Gaston, a forty-something cook at the grill, is still angry. Peter and Monique quarrel through much of the scene, but eventually she agrees to ask her husband for a divorce.

There are some calm periods and lighthearted moments, but as the pace of work increases in preparation for the midday meal, tension mounts between various members of the staff. It is heightened by the arrival of the elderly, work-obsessed proprietor, Mr. Marango. Hans, a sensitive young German at the frying station, has an accident in the steam room, and his face is scalded.

Part 1 reaches a dynamic climax with the serving of the midday meal. Waitresses gathering at the various stations shout their orders, and the cooks shout back in repetition. Plates are passed to and fro. Tempers flare. Movements become increasingly frenetic; Kevin,...

(The entire section is 903 words.)