Some Girl I Used to Know – Review

March 10, 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Diva Next Door

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Mon 10 – Wed 12 March 2014

From Big Breakfast weather girl to Broadway star, the talents of Denise Van Outen have taken her a long way.

Denise Van Outen. Photo © Pamela Raith

Denise Van Outen. Photo © Pamela Raith

Now she arrives at the King’s in one-woman show Some Girl I Used to Know, a showcase for her singing, comedy and dramatic skills.

Stephanie is hitting a crisis point. A hugely successful lingerie designer, she’s taking refuge in her London hotel room from the fuss surrounding her latest launch. She plans a few hours of slobbing around before an interview with a hack she hates, and isn’t in the mood to speak to husband Paul, who hasn’t turned out to support her the way he used to.

Then, a Facebook message offers the chance to escape from the stress of her daily life, as old boyfriend Sean suggests he pop over …

There follows a series of reminiscences in the seemingly hard-faced Steph explains how she got that way, exactly what happened to Some Girl I Used To Know. That’s the title of the only original song in this piece, an emotional ballad which gets to the core of Steph’s problems.

The rest of the numbers are all pop hits from the Eighties and Nineties, as made famous by the likes of Culture Club, Kim Wilde and the Thompson Twins. There’s Do You Really Want to Hurt Me rearranged as a torch song; You Came rearranged as a torch song; Hold Me Now rearranged as a torch song …

It’s all deliberate, and plays to Steph’s melancholy mood, but it’s rather one-note – couldn’t Steph have just one set of happy memories that could cue an upbeat number?

“funny, filthy lines, delivered with elan…”

That’s not to say Van Outen doesn’t sell what is there brilliantly – she has a clear, rich, warm voice and uses it with skill and heart. Stock Aitken Waterman’s You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You is the musical highlight, gaining unsuspected depths via Van Outen’s interpretation.

There are some funny, filthy lines, delivered with elan, and while there’s a little too much I Heart the Eighties/Nineties-style namechecking, the lure of nostalgia does feed into the final part of Steph’s journey.

The show should, mind, dump the massively busy mobile of objects from Steph’s youth decorating the ‘roof’ of the set, which looks tacky topping our heroine’s swanky hotel room.

While the first act is all about showing where Steph is now – more Michelle Moaner than Michelle Mone – the second act gives us more of her colours, allowing Van Outen to show what a sharp actress she is as she targets emotions with laser-like precision.

We see the experiences that informed the woman, and come to admire Steph for getting through the rough times. By the end of the play, I didn’t agree with Steph’s final decision, but Van Outen – who wrote the show with Terry Ronald – had me understanding why she made it. And look at that, they made me care!

Some Girl I Used to Know whizzes by as the charismatic Van Outen connects easily with the audience – predominantly gals of a certain age. And why not? But anyone who wishes to see a world-class performer make a simple musical play into great theatre shouldn’t miss this.

Running time 90 minutes
Run ends Wednesday 12 March 2014
Daily, 7.30pm
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tickets from www.edtheatres.com/somegirl
Tour website: www.somegirliusedtoknow.com

Some Girl I Used to Know on tour:

Mon 10 – Wed 12 March Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Thu 13 – Sat 15 Mar Southend
Palace Theatre
01702 351135 Book online
Mon 17 – Wed 19 Mar Dartford
Orchard Theatre
01322 22 0000 Book online

ENDS

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