Our New Girl

Nancy Harris
Bush Theatre

Our New Girl

After a really sharp opening scene, Our New Girl soon settles down into pretty run of the mill soap opera with hints of psychological thriller.

For some reason, the Bush now only seems to programme plays set entirely in kitchens, though the last offering of 2011 went the whole hog as it was actually entitled The Kitchen Sink.

This West London setting is more stylish, though it is infested by a lifetime's supply of olive oil. In time, though, the adornments become less of a plague than the four inhabitants, each of whom has dark tendencies despite surface ordinariness.

The central figure is Kate Fleetwood's heavily pregnant Hazel. She is a solicitor superstar cum mother who has given up her career to set up in business as a purveyor of liquid heaven from Sicily.

This seems an odd decision for a perfectionist whose whole life to date has been given over to achieving excellence in every sphere.

The inconsistent characterisation runs throughout the household, even extending beyond her family.

Mysteriously, her regularly absent husband has hired an au pair without even mentioning this to Hazel. Annie, played by Denise Gough, arrives on the doorstep unexpectedly, causing considerable dissension as much by her manner as the shock of her arrival.

Possibly because she was brutally abused as a child on the farm in Ireland, Annie immediately empathises with 8-year-old Daniel, a model of precocity with the suggestion of the diabolical, given impressive humanity by the talented Jonathan Teale on opening night.

Perhaps an even bigger quandary than the other trio is dad Richard, a man given to preaching platitudes. Mark Bazeley plays a humanitarian plastic surgeon who returns from heroic work in Haiti to demonstrate a pure vicious streak to his unhappy wife. To discover what he might or might not expose to the au pair girl, you will have to buy a ticket.

This unpredictable quartet, plus a tarantula, live in a constant state of warfare with explosive outbursts coming regularly though it is rarely obvious where they might break out next or who will be the victim.

Kate Fleetwood gets the most sympathetic part playing a wife struggling to juggle all of her responsibilities under intense pressure but unwilling to accept help. Putting up with an absent husband and son whose behaviour would keep a team of psychiatrists in work is far from ideal but her jealousy of Annie from the moment that they meet is not rationally explicable.

Our New Girl has its comic moments and builds tension at times but fails to tell viewers much about the human condition or even life among affluent London types. As such, its appeal is most likely to be for those looking for light entertainment.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher