Review: Some Girl I Used To Know, Arts Theatre

“Give me time to realise my crime”

Sometimes you can step around the difficult bits of a show to appreciate what works, give it the benefit of the doubt if you like, but Denise Van Outen’s one-woman show Some Girl I Used To Know left me so frustrated, annoyed even, that any sense of benevolence has gone right out of the window. Van Outen is a talented performer – I enjoyed her Tell Me On A Sunday though the less said about Rent Remixed the better for everyone concerned – but it is hard to see what she’s really trying to achieve here with this self-penned show (co-written with Terry Ronald) which arrived at the Arts Theatre after a UK tour.

On the one hand, there’s a tiresome, paper-thin monologue about a successful businesswoman who is thrown into a tailspin when a Facebook poke from her first love makes her realise just how unhappy she is in her relationship. And on the other there’s an 80s/early 90s jukebox show which revisits her formative years in Essex. For me though, neither one works satisfactorily. The book focuses on comedy of the lowest crudest denominator (of course she’s a lingerie designer) and none of the three characters are ever allowed to develop to the point where any of them might seem like vaguely realistic people who could ever be in a relationship.

There’s some relief when the talking stops and Van Outen starts singing, but the suite of pop classics have been homogenised into torch song slush which means there’s hardly any tonal variety that might suggest, you know, some depth to the character. Many of these were the songs of my childhood too and so the sound of tinny SAW production actually has a special place in my heart so to hear Sonia’s ‘You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You’ or Kim Wilde’s ‘You Came’ with the ballad dial turned to max makes me sad. There’s an extra layer of perversity here as I’m usually a massive fan of a slowed-down cover but something here just really rubbed me up the wrong way.

In all honesty, I didn’t hate this show, I’ve seen far worse this year, but I just left the theatre so annoyed that it is this that has been chosen as a showcase for Van Outen’s undoubted talent. I can’t help but feel she deserves, and can deliver, more – give me time to realise my crime indeed.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 13th September

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