The Stolen Inches is without a doubt the greatest (and most middle class) episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians ever produced. Exploring the disparity between public and private demeanours through a reality TV lens, The Small Things Theatre Company presents a touching and often hilarious examination of a family struggling to keep up appearances. Successful TV executive Bernard Wenlock (Neil Andrew) is retiring and his alpha male/dickhead son, producer Sebastian (Philip Scott-Wallace), has taken it upon himself to produce a documentary about his father’s life. Repressed housewife Susan (Holly Blair) is shunned and spoken over as she strains to find her own voice in the kitchen, as is 5’2” shoe designer son Simon (Ed Howells). The family have rehearsed their lines and personas but when Simon announces that he is suing his parents for neglect in his youth, the make-belief world crumbles.
The audience plays the role of the camera crew in The Stolen Inches, observing the on and off screen personalities which the family wears but which are still captured on film. There are references to this in the narrative – at one point Sebastian requests the camera be turned off and the scene cuts to a few minutes later. We, the audience-camera-crew, see everything – an entire domestic scene is expertly squeezed into the tiny stage. The kitchen is in the hall is in the living room. As a result the effect is that the family spill onto each other and onto the audience.
Despite the close proximity, the characters keep their distance, maintaining their public image and maintaining the power in the relationship. This is a play with a great many power struggles; one of them is between the characters and their audience. Despite not containing audience interaction as we’d normally consider it, The Stolen Inches involves the audience in a refreshing way which most traditional plays do not.
The play’s flaw lies in its characters, in which you can’t always feel invested. These are types we’ve seen before – the lad hiding behind his loud exterior, the trapped wife and controlling husband. To their credit, the cast perform with absolute sincerity and every performance is accomplished. Particular notice must go to Howells’s Simon, for his controlled characterisation. As Simon changes over the play, something is clearly not quite right but Howells keeps everything bubbling just under the surface.
Playwright and director Cordelia O’Neill’s first full length play is a must-see domestic drama, beautifully put together and always with the importance of public image in mind.
The Stolen Inches is playing at C Nova (Venue 145) until 26th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.