Meat Lab Theatre‘s Pits is a window into the life of the Hepburns, a Geordie family comprising of a husband and wife, their two children and their son’s significant other. Their daughter Mackenzie serves as the protagonist and our guide through the story. She’s a budding stand-up comedian and uses her unique and outrageous home life as the main inspiration for her routine. The play begins with her stand-up routine which she breaks into throughout the show to provide mostly humorous observations about what we’ve just seen.
The description of the show aptly calls the play a ‘kitchen-sink drama.’ The show has its funny moments, particularly in the authentic absurdity of the family life. You can certainly see why Mackenzie wants to use her family as the backbone of her stand-up. Early scenes performed adeptly by the cast highlight how her mother seems to care most about superficial beauty and status driven fashion while her father loudly tells terrible ‘dad jokes’ and becomes emotional over beer choices. Her brother and his girlfriend also provide some laughs, but they drive the darker plot that begins to emerge as part of the narrative.
The play itself provides far more engaging and interesting entertainment to the audience than the breaks for stand-up. Whilst these breaks don’t advance the central plot, the story itself is quite small, therefore with limited time the writing focuses on developing the story’s characters. After a distressingly authentic night out in Newcastle, the family all return the home. Now inebriated, they talk more freely and you see not only disturbing signs of racism and bigotry, but also betrayal amongst members of the family. The next day, each nursing a hangover, the powder keg of their family’s emotions explodes, leaving everyone damaged.
The story requires the cast to employ a full range of emotions in order to provide the appropriate response from the audience. This lofty requirement was thankfully delivered by a very impressive and well directed ensemble cast. By providing a genuine performance, they tie together the overall atmosphere sought in a show titled Pits. By creating a family that provides both hilarity and tragedy, you understand why Mackenzie wants to incorporate this into a stand-up routine, but also the cost of these laughs on her emotional wellbeing.