Before Masterchef, Gordon Ramsey and reality TV, Arnold Wesker’s documentary-style play The Kitchen ushered in a new form of drama bent on celebrating the reality of everyday people at work.

The orders are piling up in an immense post-war London restaurant. An eclectic staff of chefs, porters and waiters from across the globe (Cypriot, German, Australian, English) fight and flirt as they struggle to keep up with two thousand customers each day. A young German named Peter thrives on the pressure, but amidst the hustle of the kitchen he has struck up an affair with a married waitress Monique. Together they dream of a better life – but in the bustle of a hectic kitchen, nothing is far from the brink of disaster.

“This Kitchen is Masterchef on steroids.”
Justin Martin – Director.

Starring Ballarat’s own Arts Academy 2012 Graduating Actors Company and directed by international export Justin Martin (currently between a stint as associate director of Billy Elliot The Musical on Broadway and his West End debut on a new London play in early 2013), this is one of the most ambitious productions undertaken by the university.

The Kitchen’s first full length production was presented by the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre in 1961 and was originally stage managed by the present artistic director of Ballarat’s National Theatre, Julian Oldfield.  In 1994 the Royal Court’s critically acclaimed revival was directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) who worked extensively with Justin Martin in New York, Korea and Australia over the past 5 years.

The elaborate set itself designed by Adam (Gus) Powers has the capacity to cook a meal for 2000 people. It has largely been sourced from throughout the Ballarat community, especially including the help of Brian Scarf who has been collecting ovens and kitchen equipment for the better part of 35 years.

Wesker’s Kitchen has become a metaphor for a social/financial hierarchy which remains relevant to a multicultural Australia and Ballarat in the wake of the global financial crisis. 1950’s Britain saw the commercialization of a food industry where quality became secondary to quantity, which can be paralleled to any of number of commercialized industries today not least the university sector.

As part of their preparation the cast have learnt to cook, clean and serve a commercial kitchen with support from Ballarat locals including Phoenix Chef Travis Ray. Not only must the cast deal with the real time constraints of a fully operational kitchen, they also have to master the challenge of 10 distinctly different accents from across the globe including Cypriot, German, Yorkshire, Geordie and Manchester under the guidance of Julianne Eveleigh.

“The world might have been a stage for Shakespeare but to me it is a kitchen.”
Arnold Wesker – Playwright.

Stay tuned for upcoming season dates and ticket release.