While adaptations of plays and novels are always interesting to watch, new writing is equally as fascinating and slightly more exciting to experience. As a literature graduate, I find the relationship between the playwright and their play’s subject intriguing. In this instance, it was Suhayla El-Bushra’s experiences working in a pupil referral unit that influenced Cuckoo, and even though at times the performance was a bit uncomfortable to watch, there are elements of it that makes it an intriguing piece of writing.
The play is about Jenny (Eden Howard), a quiet girl at school who no one takes much notice of. Kicked out of her old school for breaking someone’s arm, Nadine (Kate Lassman-Long) is Jenny’s opposite. The two unlikely couple become very good friends, and when Nadine and her mother’s relationship gets worse, she decides to stay with Jenny and her hippy mother Erica (Sarah Malin). Erica becomes a nurturing mother to Nadine, but in the process, her relationship with Jenny becomes strained, and while Nadine is progressing in school, Jenny is acting dangerously out of character.
The performances were very good, and Malin’s maturity against the two young actors creates a perfect balance on stage. I enjoyed Lassman-Long’s Nadine, as she brought to life the familiar girls I once went to school with. Her mannerisms were perfect, and she brilliantly captures the spirit of her character. For me it was Howard’s portrayal of Jenny that proved to be uncomfortable at times. Her change in character seemed too pushed and not as gradual as it needed to be, but after all, the play was only 70 minutes long.
Designer Georgia Lowe has created a great set. The warmth of a home is projected very well in it, but it is also versatile with the help of a moving centre piece. The actors are able to transform the audience from the girl’s toilets, to Erica’s kitchen to Jenny’s bedroom. The play does well in encompassing modern teenage life, and the struggles individuals go through when they are given a particular label. But I think Cuckoo needs to be a little longer in length to fully understand the relationships between the characters, which would make this play perfect.