Pros: Kate Lassman- Long’s performance as Nadine had moments of comic brilliance.
Cons: The show was unfortunately a bit cringey, and some moments felt out of touch.
I’ve been to a press night at the Unicorn Theatre before. I was subbing for a friend who reviews for A Younger Theatre (gasp, the competition) and I knew they put on a good evening. In this sense, I wasn’t disappointed. There was wine, beer, cheese, fancy rolls and get this, stuffed tomatoes. Dream. However, sadly, this was the best part of the evening, once the show was over. That is not to say that the play was terrible, the food was that good.
My first indication that the play, centering on the friendship of two very different teenage girls, might be slightly out of touch was the five year-old pop blasting from the speakers in pre-show. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Tings Tings’ That’s Not My Name, I really do but it’s not exactly current. ‘Tings’ only got worse from then on, whether it was the trying to be cool dialogue between Nadine and Jenny (Kate Lassman-Long, Eden Howard) – what teens do you know who say “Christ on a bike”? – or the hippy mother stereotype of Jenny’s mother Erica (Sarah Malin). The latter just became more trying as the play went on, mainly because it was never broke out of.
There were some good moments in the show, and I applaud Unicorn for taking two young actors from their young company and giving them an excellent opportunity in professional theatre (this was Howard’s first and Lassman-Long’s second pro show). Lassman Long’s sense of comic timing being top notch throughout, and her portrayal reaching moments of both hilarity and pathos. However, since the show was so focused on Nadine and Jenny’s friendship, Howard’s awkward performance dragged down the pace of the whole evening. It was also disappointing that a lot of the emotion was forced into a drunken scene so it could get away with being overly sentimental, a pretty cheap trick.
That said there were some points in the show that pierced my flint heart. I wasn’t impressed overall with but she did pull off the tragic desperate pleas for her mother’s attention well. Also, the look on her face when she walked in on her mother telling Nadine, “don’t ever have kids” brought a loud gasp from the audience, and sympathetic wince from me.
Another positive was the versatility of the set. The simple kitchen set was transformed into school bathroom, Jenny’s bedroom and the seawall easily. Designer Georgia Lowe deserves plaudits here, it was used to its full potential.
The show had some interesting ideas, and writer Suhayla El Bushra’s experience of teaching in an exclusion unit certainly has a lot to offer to the stage but like her show Pigeons (Royal Court, 2013), its portrayal of teens fell well short of the grade.
Writer: Suhayla El Bushra
Director: Nathan Curry
Designer: Georgia Lowe
Box Office: 020 7645 0560
Booking Link: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/whatson/17/more-dates
Booking Until: 25th January