The cuckoo is one of nature’s most sinister symbols: a cunning usurper that disrupts the natural order of parent and child. In her short, funny family drama, Suhayla El-Bushra uses this symbol to subvert the idea of teenage rebellion and blur the lines between victim and perpetrator.
It follows Jenny and Nadine, who become unlikely bezzies after an encounter in the toilets at school. They are two ends of the teenage spectrum: Nadine drinks, smokes, takes drugs and is full of attitude; Jenny by contrast, is as sheltered as they come.
As the girls become closer, the third person in the relationship – Jenny’s liberal, recently widowed mother Erica (Sarah Malin) – gets involved. She’s initially attracted to the chance to help a vulnerable girl, but ends up loving Nadine’s fresh perspective on life. When their relationship becomes a friendship, cracks in the nest begin to appear.
In the main, this is a smart play about boundaries. Erica’s change in status makes Nadine blossom, but confuses the hell out of Jenny. There’s a distinct sense of claustrophobia evoked by Georgia Lowe’s versatile kitchen set and by the time we reach the shocking ending it’s clear how all three parties are responsible for what happens.
Disappointingly, the play is peppered with clichés, such as the standard first-ever-cigarette-coughing-fit. The two lead girls – Eden Howard and Kate Lassman-Long both making their stage debut – create a strong, realistic bond, but the clunky dialogue in the first half doesn’t help their performances and the play takes a long while to get warmed up.
Malin is excellent, but only really gets a chance to shine as things start to kick off towards the end. In the final scene she’s devastating, but unfortunately it’s too little too late.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell