Kitchen sink drama, also known as kitchen sink realism, emerged on the British stage in the mid-1950s in stark contrast to the middle and upper-class drawing room dramas that preceded it. For the first time, characters were everyday working-class people portraying the mundane banality of life, mostly set in poor industrial towns in the north of England. Protagonists were often disillusioned and disaffected youth. The genre depicted a gritty domestic and social realism that arrived alongside a new wave of artists, with the cinema producing a number of outstanding films. John Osborne’s 1956 autobiographical play Look Back in Anger is considered the beginning of the movement in the theatre. – Justin Cash
Kitchen Sink Drama Resources
Article from The Telegraph on how kitchen sink realism spread from the visual and performing arts into British films of the 1960s.
Brief analysis of kitchen sink drama including a list of novels, plays, films and music belonging to the genre from the Seattle Public Library.
Wikipedia entry on the origins and characteristics of the genre.
Useful collection of 1950s and 60s British films in the kitchen sink genre, each with a brief synopsis.
Article discussing the new genre and the “angry young men” of the movement.
Useful analysis of kitchen sink drama from TV Tropes.
BBC podcast about the new social realism in British films.
Step by step guide on what films to watch in order to better understand kitchen sink realism.
Notable Kitchen Sink Dramas
Look Back in Anger – John Osborne’s 1956 autobiographical play created a storm with its newfound domestic realism and portrayal of a young working class Jimmy Porter and his upper-middle class wife Alison. The piece single-handedly raised Osborne’s profile in the echelon of British theatre, spawning a successful West End production, Broadway run, plus a film starring Richard Burton.
A Taste of Honey – Shelagh Delaney’s first play at the age of just nineteen years was originally written as a novel. Set in northwest England in the 1950s, the play’s protagonist is Jo, a seventeen year-old working class girl who is left pregnant and alone. The play was adapted into an award-winning film of the same name.
Alfie – Bill Naughton’s 1963 stage play evolved from a BBC radio drama Alfie Elkins and His Little Life. The ladies man of the title was played by British actor Terence Stamp on Broadway.
Cathy Come Home – Jeremy Sanford’s highly acclaimed 1966 work about poverty and homelessness was actually a BBC television play. The piece was filmed mostly outdoors on location in a highly naturalistic style.
Spring and Port Wine – Another work by Bill Naughton that was originally a radio play, later adapted for television, then the stage, and later for film starring James Mason. The drama is set in Bolton in the northwest of England.
A look at some of the film masterpieces from the British new wave of kitchen sink realism.
Master of Arts thesis discussing the themes, characterisation, language and settings of British kitchen sink dramas.
Useful description of the cultural movement and the characters portrayed, with reference to film.
A look at the character types depicted in kitchen sink films of 1950s and 60s Britain.
Brief overview of the movement from The Drama Teacher website.
Brief summary of the kitchen sink genre from The Drama Teacher website.
Very good academic journal article Kitchen Sink Drama and Naturalism: Trends of Post-War English Theatre.
Analysis of how kitchen sink dramas differed from the plays that preceded them.