By Laura Denby
Since her arrival earlier this year, Neighbours’ nurse Nicolette Stone has made a memorable impression. Her eventful first few months have seen the young woman cause endless trouble. Yet it has been difficult to work out exactly where her place is in the show, as she regularly switches between kind and cunning. But with the soap investing plenty of screen time in Nicolette, there is an opportunity to define her role going forward.
Nicolette is the daughter of popular character Jane Harris, and the great-granddaughter of the fierce Mrs Mangel. There are certainly traits that she shares with the latter, with her nasty side apparent for all to see. She made an enemy of Pierce Greyson after falling for his wife Chloe Brennan – even going on to set up Chloe’s discovery of his affair. And having stolen a winning lottery ticket from a former patient, she has been trying to run her remorseful accomplice Audrey Hamilton (Zahra Newman) out of town.
But it was an off-screen conflict between Nicolette and her equally meddlesome relative that gave us a first glimpse of her identity. We discovered that Jane (Annie Jones) asked her to keep her sexuality a secret, something which hurt her deeply. Nicolette confronted Mrs Mangel and came out to her, but she passed away shortly afterwards.
Despite not having seen the showdown, we appreciated her feisty attitude and sympathised with her turmoil; and Jane’s reaction to the bombshell felt rather harsh. But no sooner had we seen Nicolette’s vulnerability than it promptly disappeared, and she returned to manipulating situations to her own advantage.
It’s unclear which direction Neighbours is planning to take Nicolette in, and this is what stops us from understanding who she really is. Fleeting moments of compassion have shown she shouldn’t necessarily be labelled a villain. But she veers from one personality to the next in quick succession, barely giving us time to form an opinion on her. She needs to be able to settle in at a steadier pace, or there is a risk of prematurely exhausting the character.
Played with great screen presence by Charlotte Chimes, Nicolette could have all the makings of classic female soap character. If Neighbours avoids making her too extreme, she could have real staying power. Her upfront, confrontational nature is far more fascinating to watch than the underhanded tactics required for her infatuation with Chloe (April Rose Pengilly).
A break from the constant scheming would serve her well until she has won some favour with the locals of Erinsborough – and the viewers. Fans are already growing frustrated with Nicolette’s two-faced nature; her tendency to insert herself into situations that have nothing to do with her, and her inconsistent behaviour.
Her offer to have a baby with housemates Aaron Brennan and his husband David Tanaka (Matt Wilson and Takaya Honda) is a perfect example of this. Nicolette’s attitude has been suspiciously confusing, wanting to be both a mum and hands-off ‘auntie’ at the same time and doubts about what kind of person she is will soon surface amongst the group.
There are moments where her desire to have a child feels authentic, and her fondness for the couple appears genuine. But there is every chance Nicolette just wants to fit in with David and Aaron’s needs, therefore securing her place in Chloe’s extended family and growing even closer to her.
If Neighbours chose to explore Nicolette further, she could develop beyond this narrative. Expanding on her backstory would be a promising way to cement the character as a permanent fixture – particularly as so much of it is still a mystery. Perhaps the rejection she faced has hardened her, or there are more secrets to be revealed.
Scenes outside her current group might also help, rather than forcing her into the ongoing plots of others. Only by mixing with the wider community in a more natural setting will Nicolette be established as a well-rounded character. Giving her strong connections without an ulterior motive would also set some boundaries – even soap’s most spiteful ladies have lines they won’t cross as a long-term resident.
It remains to be seen whether she will make her name as a respectable neighbour or a modern day Mrs Mangel with an edge – could she emerge with all these qualities? With the right balance, Nicolette could become the iconic soap matriarch that Neighbours has been lacking, making an even stronger impact in 2021.