Michael Wynne’s play delves into the lives of a typical family, examining the profound impact of mobile phones on their relationships. Seventeen-year-old Megyn barricades herself inside her grandmother’s bedroom following a heated family discussion, leaving her mother Carmel and sister Sarah deeply concerned. The play explores the isolation caused by these devices, their psychological allure, the troubles they pose for teenagers, and the detachment experienced in online encounters, devoid of genuine emotion. While Carmel’s character is well-developed, her dismissal of her sister, mother, and daughter presents subjective and intriguing reactions, leaving the audience yearning for deeper exploration.
Under the direction of Vicky Featherstone, the staging of Cuckoo remains straightforward and unadorned, effectively conveying the essence of the story. The characters’ obsession with their phones becomes a vital focal point, highlighting the alienation it induces, the emotional satisfaction it offers, and the significant challenges it poses for teenagers. Unfortunately, the absence of symbolic or metaphorical devices to express these themes through staging is noticeable, leaving a void that could have enhanced the overall impact.
The ensemble cast delivers sharp performances, although in some moments of the first act, their awareness of eliciting laughter at the expense of authenticity makes their characters unclear. The portrayal of the phone itself lacks the prominence it deserves, as characters resort to mimicking light touches instead of realistically engaging with their devices.
As a narrative, Cuckoo grapples with its intent—whether to draw attention to these individuals undergoing transformations or to explore the uncertainty of our times. While the question is posed, its effective execution in delivering a radical and compelling change falls short. The characters come to life, mirroring real humans engrossed in their phones, yet their presence in physical space but absence in connection does not lead to a significant change in their lives and therefore, our own.
Playing until 19th August, https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/cuckoo/
Reviewer: Akshay Raheja
Reviewed: 12th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: