Texting but not communicating
“We had to exclude two more pupils today. One brought in a meat cleaver . . . Both six”
Cuckoo is Michael Wynne’s latest play for the Royal Court but not his finest. Set in Birkenhead in the house of widowed Doreen (Sue Jenkins) it has her two daughters, her granddaughter and herself all absorbed in their mobile phones. This might have made a good radio play but how would you convey their fixation with their screens?
The ramifications are there for information shared by text messaging. The granddaughter Megyn (Emma Harrison) is 17 and concerned about the environment and her future with climate change and threats to the planet. Widowed Doreen has made a future for herself by selling off stuff in her house and buying up other people’s stuff from charity shops and the like, to sell on, on the internet. She is also receiving text messages which make her laugh raucously.
Carmel (Michelle Butterly), the elder daughter who is Megyn’s mother finds it difficult living with her teenager and is arguing with her daughter. She is a single parent and unsympathetic towards her daughter. Carmel works at Boots but their sales have dropped off with Superdrug offering things more cheaply and zero hours contracts are in the offing.
Sarah (Jodie McNee) works as a teacher at the local primary school. She buys the fish and chips for the family in the opening scene. She is single but wrapped up with phone messages from Simon, a dentist she has met on the internet and whom she has seen a few times. She is very excited about this new relationship and planning a holiday with him. Doreen keeps asking whether he has nice teeth.
The primary school is introducing environmental measures like banning plastic and driving to school. As Sarah says, “Virtually everything in a primary school is plastic. Cups, pens, toys, the laminator.”
Megyn runs upstairs and locks herself in her grandmother’s bedroom and refuses to come out. Doreen agrees to let her stay but Megyn only communicates by text asking for food and drink. Megyn is also texting outside the family sometimes about environmental concerns and texting with someone who works at Superdrug much to her mother’s annoyance.
The main source of humour in the first act is that Liverpudlian wit and the timing of interruptions from the mobile phones. Unfortunately we are expecting a great denouement which never arrives. This may be a spoiler but I feel it has to be said.
This is a shallow play compared to Michael Wynne’s earlier work and it is sad to see it on at the Royal Court, once known for exceptional and groundbreaking plays.
Written by Michael Wynne
Directed by Vicky Featherstone
Director: Vicky Featherstone
Designer: Peter McKintosh
Composer: Tayo Akinbode
Movement Design: Jonnie Riordan
Lighting Designer: Jai Morjaria
Composer and Sound Designer: Nick Powell
Running Time: Two hours including an interval
Booking to 19th August 2023
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
Royal Court Theatre
London SW1W 4AS
Phone: 020 7565 5000
Tube: Sloane Square
by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Royal Court
on 12th July 2023