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Cuckoo review at Soho Theatre, London – ‘snappy dialogue’

Elise Heaven and Caitriona Ennis in Cuckoo at Soho Theatre, London. Photo: David Gill

Lisa Carroll’s play Cuckoo is a witty study of the mess and complexity of adolescent friendship.

When word gets out that a couple of morbidly uncool school kids have decided to pack Dublin in for London, the sudden glamour that this lends to one of them drives a wedge between them.

Carroll’s snappy dialogue is delivered by a cast with formidable comic timing. As Iona, first introduced as having just been pelted with “quite sturdy eggs”, Caitriona Ennis is believably earnest in everything she does. Elise Heaven plays the silent Pingu, a well-handled non-binary character, whose rolling movements around the stage and incredulous expressions are pitched impeccably.

The group also includes boys Pockets and Trix (Colin Campbell and Peter Newington) and the squeaky Toller, Iona’s ex-friend and current bully (Sade Malone). Basia Binkowska’s set is fairly simple made up of items occasionally needed (a washing machine, a dangling emergency pull-string).

It’s the characters that lend Debbie Hannan’s faintly by-numbers production its sense of place. Some lively choreography is accompanied by colourful, clubby lighting as well as bafflingly out-of-date pop songs considering these are supposed to be contemporary teenagers.

Cuckoo’s affectionate humour is done justice by the easy gusto of its cast, despite the narrative’s predictable arcs and a discordantly bleak ending. The abrupt resolution strikes an odd note in this tribute to the kind of weird, territorial teenage friendship disputes which are universally recognisable.


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Witty, well-performed, if sometimes predictable, comedy of teenage friendship