Yen – review

In 2013, Yen won the prestigious Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and premiered at Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre before transferring to the Royal Court.

Yen is fierce and disturbing. Anna Jordan is the kind of writer who climbs right inside her characters’ heads, roots around for all their darkness and spits it out onto the page with humanity and humour.

I first came across Anna Jordan in the launch issue of Bare Fiction Magazine. Her short play Closer to God was so affecting and beautifully written, I immediately declared her the next big thing. I wish I’d put money on it; within weeks, she’d won the Bruntwood Prize – one of the most coveted awards in the world of playwriting.

Yen is the story of two teenage brothers and their dog. Wearing jeans and sharing a t-shirt, we watch them struggle against the tough life they lead. The story takes place almost exclusively in one room with a sofa bed, a TV, games console and an electric fire. This claustrophobic setting is cunningly fractured by the soundscape, banks of imposing lights, ropes and scaffolding which work together to give a vast kind of energy to the action. The play crackles along, rubbing on your nerves and turning your stomach. In a good way.

Yen is a massive tale of love and redemption told in ordinary, heart-breaking details. If you can fight someone to get their ticket, then I suggest you do. (Or if you don’t like fighting, a returns queue runs from 1 hour before the performance.)

Yen is at the Royal Court till 13 February. More info.

© Sarah Hehir 2016. 

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Vote for 17Percent in the Galaxy Chocolate Fund

We have submitted an entry to the Galaxy Hot Chocolate Fund. If chosen, we’ll spend the £300 prize money on buying a PA and lights to help get our She Writes showcases running again.

Please vote for us!

 

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Clickbait – review

Clickbait is a play by Milly Thomas, a compelling and powerful play about women and the sex industry, still very much a taboo subject as there are so many facets to the porn industry that are not challenged and simply not spoken about; as it is still seen as a male dominated industry.

Clickbait is being shown at Theatre503 in London, and as I entered l was greeted by nice comfy seats and fairy lights – my idea of heaven. The theatre is a good size with rows of seats and a relatively large stage, the first scene was set in a bedroom in the sisters’ house, a double mattress on the floor, as the play progressed after the interval, the bed had gone and there was an office and narration from actors in animal masks, there was also audio, which gave the play a nice touch.

It is a play that does not hold back, it tells you the story of three young sisters, and their own individual journeys and their respective relationships with one another; a story which also tests their commitments to each other. It is a play about education, control and lack of control; it shows the faults when things go wrong and how they stumble over dealing with complaints, eg, when a customer didn’t want her video to go online.

It is a story about porn and the internet, how porn has changed over the years from asking for the sex mags on the top shelf of a newsagents to engaging with sex immediately online, and the new challenges that brings.

We have the three central characters Nicola Baker (Georgia Groome), the middle sister, Gina the eldest (Amy Dunn), and Chloe (Alice Hewkins), the youngest who is still at school. Nicola is in a relationship with Adam, and she learns that she is going to be a victim of revenge porn, filmed at an end of holiday party. Nicola’s loyal and loving boyfriend Adam has no idea about her recent encounters.

As a result of the potential footage about to be posted online, she posts it herself, and hence Protest is born, a business idea that all the sisters and even Adam are involved in, working legitimately within the porn industry setting up their own company and business. Protest is about sex, it is a home movie booth, that has no links to prostitution; a service to make sex fun without the strings or emotional attachments.

It is a way to eventually make revenge porn a redundant concept, (in the right direction in any event as it is now a criminal offence). Protest allows for participants to post their videos, they sign an agreement saying all parties are happy and videos can be posted online without it being a statement of revenge.

The booths are for fun, for having sex, and making it fun and not a boring chore; it is about both sexes having fun with sex. There is a line in the play that simply says ‘my name is Nicola Barker and I am a feminist’.  That line sums Clickbait up very well, as Nicola has started Protest to stop herself and others feeling ashamed about sex.

With Protest the person who attends the booth and engages with the sexual activities is liberated, they are in control not the other way round from an angry partner, or rival.

Adam is a fairly weak partner, he loved Nicola and could not face up to her reality, although he stood by her in her business plans, it was a complete role reversal for him; where the women were strong and liked the business of the porn industry.  The youngest sister Chloe was gung-ho and stepped outside a safe domain, where she was a child and wanted to become more involved than the adults. This brings its own dangers from the child sex industries and the risks to vulnerable children.

The sign reads in their business premises ‘no judgment’: this is a powerful sign, the words have many different meanings, no judgment of me, of others, how can people judge how do they have the right to judge?

This in many ways is the context of the play, women are judged every day, hence why Nicola mentioned she was a feminist, why would she have to say that if she wasn’t being judged.

Clickbait is a play that liberates, it is fun and serious it doesn’t hold back. It is a raw journey through the sex industries, and is a very enjoyable play, well acted and well written, I would suggest you go and see it

Clickbait is being shown from the 22nd January 2016 to the 17th Feb 2016 at Theatre503, Battersea London.

© Sam Rapp, 2016

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Milly Thomas and Clickbait

CB Holding Image © Jack Sain 2015

(c) Jack Sain

Clickbait is a new play about society’s attitude to porn and the women who make it for themselves. From the  all female writer/director team behind A First World Problem (Milly Thomas and Holly Race Roughan) comes this blistering study of how pornography is changing women’s relationship to sex in the 21st Century.

The play follows Nicola who, threatened with the release of an amateur sex video, makes a snap decision to post it online herself. What began as a drunken night in a dirty club ends with a unique business opportunity for Nicola and her two sisters as they start a network of amateur porn video booths. But where there is demand there must be supply and, as lines become blurred, public opinion begins to turn against the trio. It opens at Theatre5o3 on 19 January.

In advance of the play’s opening, Sam Rapp asked writer Milly Thomas to tell more about herself and the play.

SR: This is a play about women and porn. What were the inspirations to write about this particular subject matter? 

MT: The inspiration originally came from a news article I read concerning a woman who had performed a sex act on holiday. I remember being so shocked by the vitriol that came her way and then it became less about that particular news article but more about thinking about our attitudes to women and sex and the bigger questions for victims of revenge porn. ‘What do you do. How do you get on with your life? Where do you go?’ It also got me thinking about how revenge pornography is blurring the line between sex and pornography and how women fit in that particular mire of sexual politics. It also took me off on a journey of exploring what it might be like to attempt to capitalise on the porn market – the idea that one way of consolidating the thing that had happened to you might be to lean into it and see where it leads you.

SR:  Did you have any concerns about writing about women and porn as it can be a challenging subject matter?

MT: I honestly haven’t been concerned only because I feel the subject matter is hugely important. Pornography certainly can be challenging for some people, but the fact is that it’s mainstream now. Pornography is everywhere. From sexualised marketing campaigns right down to the music we listen to. And nine times out of ten it’s women who are being objectified by it. I just want to get a dialogue going. I’m not here to condemn porn just as I am not here to promote it either and my characters’ voices reflect this. I don’t have any answers or a mission statement, I’d just love to know what other people’s responses are.

SR: Did you have any hostility regarding the subject matter?

MT: None whatsoever, which is hugely encouraging.

SR: Are you looking forward to the press night?

MT: Very much so. I promised my mum I’d wear smart shoes.

SR: Are you confident the play will be well received?

MT: I’m excited to know what people make of it. I just want to make people think. One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever been given was ‘If you make art and the whole world loves it, you’re doing it wrong.’ This shouldn’t be interpreted as going out to deliberately provoke. I see it as sticking to your gut and standing proudly by your work.

SR: How did you envisage the way in which the characters evolve, and has there been any changes, while the rehearsal room, to how you originally perceived your characters to be played?

MT: The wonderful thing about scriptwriting in any format is that once you hand it over to a room full of actors it’s like Frankenstein’s monster and a switch is flipped and the script comes to life. It’s one of my favourite bits of the process because you can be surprised, delighted and challenged – often all at the same time. Clickbait has been no different, which delights me as then it becomes something more than some text I wrote down.

SR: How long did it take to write this play? 

MT: I had the idea almost a year ago and scribbled it down in a first draft. It’s been on a huge journey since then.

SR: Have you always wanted to be a writer, how did you start?

MT: I work full time as an actor/writer. Until a few years ago only ever wanted to act. I went to drama school and graduated a year and a half ago. It was only while I was there, when it became my 9 to 5, that I realised that I needed more than being an actor. I love telling stories. Being an actor you get to tell stories for a living, but being a writer you get to create your own. British playwrighting is in such an explosive place and I wanted to add my voice. So I wrote a handful of short plays and entered them into competitions and won some, which encouraged me to keep going. I then wrote my first full-length play called A First World Problem which was picked up by Theatre503 the summer I graduated. It taught me a lot and, more importantly, I had a lot of fun. So much fun that I’m back with the same creative team two years later which is really exciting.

SR: How and when do you write? 

MT: I try to keep to office hours as much as possible, especially when I’m not acting. Against my better judgement, I do work quote well in the wee hours, but you can’t work at all without sleep. I try and write every day. Sometime I need to go for a walk and put some headphones in and think about what it is I need to say. Sometimes it tumbles out before I know it’s there. Every play is different.

SR: Are you working on anything else at the moment?

MT: I’m currently writing an episode of a new BBC3 series that will air in 2017, which is a totally different process but just as thrilling. I also start the Channel 4 Screenwriting course this year which I’m very much looking forward to.

As for theatre, I have some ideas that I’m sketching out right now in the back of my head. Soon enough one of them will shout louder than all the others and the process will start all over again.

ClickBait can be seen at Theatre503, The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW from Tuesday 19 January – Saturday 13 February 2016 (Tuesday to Saturday, 7.45pm, Sunday, 5pm)

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Multi-sensory, accessible Christmas in Bath

'The Snow Child' by Owen Benson Visuals

‘The Snow Child’ by Owen Benson Visuals

Based on the Russian Fairy Tale, The Snow Maiden, Bath-based Butterfly Psyche’s new and original show is a multi-sensory, interactive family-friendly production that explores love and what it means to be a family.

Suitable for all ages, Butterfly Psyche promises to bring a special kind of magic this Christmas with The Snow Child. The show has been created with the help of Include Arts to make the mainstream performances as accessible as possible, as well as providing Assisted Performances and Accessible resources for theatre-goers with complex needs.

Created by one of the South West’s most exciting companies Butterfly Psyche Theatre’s The Snow Child is the eagerly-awaited follow up on their run-away success from 2013, The Bluebird (“one of the most thought provoking, visually stunning festive shows in recent years” 5 Stars, What’s On Stage.) This brand new adaptation of the classic Russian fairy-tale promises to be equally magical.

Writer/Director and Artistic Director of Butterfly Psyche Theatre Alison Farina says:

“This show has something for everyone. We’ve got snow, we’ve got polar bears, we’ve got fast-paced comedy and we’ve got some of the area’s most talented actors – but most importantly, we’ve got a story with a lot of heart. We also wanted to make this show as accessible as possible for everyone. It’s so important to us that our work is welcoming and relevant. With this approach, we hope to inspire other small independent theatre companies to work in this way, too. So whether you’ve got kids or not, this will be more than just your average ‘Christmas show’. Join us for a Theatre for All experience that you’ll remember for years to come.”

All performances will feature Keyword Signing for additional communication support, and will be followed by a 20-minute ‘Stay and play’ session, as well as a number of Assisted Performances including:

* Relaxed Performances – These performances are perfect for fidgeters, whisperers and all those who find sitting still a challenge. With the set and lighting designed to support those on the autistic spectrum, there will be nothing too bright, too dark or overstimulating. But if things do get too much, the auditorium doors will remain open and there will be a ‘Soft Space’ to retreat to.

* British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted performances – these are for anyone who uses BSL, their friends, family and everybody!

* Big Scream performance for families with very small children – and tickets for this performance will operate a ‘Babes in Arms’ policy, so a child of 18 months or younger doesn’t need a ticket providing they can be held by a grown-up.

* Visual stories are available on request to help audience members prepare for their visit. You can email the company to receive them either electronically or by post. Copies will also be available to pick up at The Rondo Box Office in the run-up to the show.

* Touch tours (an opportunity to explore the set and props before the show) for anyone with visual impairments are available as well as BSL tours prior to the BSL Interpreted performances. Large Print programmes/Visual Stories will also be available. Please email the company directly with your requirements.

* Available for the 4pm show on December 18th (the last Friday before Christmas) there is also a special Children’s Christmas Packed Tea (dietary options available via box office booking page).

The Snow Child runs at The Rondo Theatre, Bath from 9-20 December 2015.

More booking info.

 

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Review: wish I was… by Laura Wyatt O’Keefe at Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre

At times during certain pieces of theatre or live art there are notable moments where a word or sound seems to reverberate, not only within the walls of the auditorium, but simultaneously through the interiors of  body and mind. In wish I was…, written and performed by Laura Wyatt O’Keefe, a London-based theatre artist originally from Cork, this momentary effect is extended in to an hour-long piece. The play tells the story of Aisling, a twenty-two year old who, after a chance encounter on a night out at home that leaves her reeling, departs on a plane ‘going anywhere’ – to look for herself on the other side of the world. More than a straightforward travelogue, however, O’Keefe guides us on a journey, based on her own experience crossing from Ireland to Thailand and Australia, bringing our attention to points of difference along the way, traversing countries and borders. She threads amusing anecdotes (particularly of the Irish experience abroad) with a muddier search for identity and meaning, asking what it means to be a young woman – how this is challenged by society and whether this changes when we are uprooted in an unknown land. Are we all just navigating our own paths, and what are we bearing witness to in the process?

Waiting to enter the Council Chamber Room in Hornsey Town Hall, it felt as if we, the audience, were a hushed jury waiting to be led into a trial. The venue has been converted into a multi-purpose arts centre hosting IMPFEST – The Impermanent Festival of Contemporary Performance, and its chambers lend a sense of gravitas to the transporting mix of words and sounds that comprise wish I was… To listen to this piece is to become, like the performer’s persona Aisling, lost on a journey that begins to take its own direction. Intentionally leaving behind her luggage and possessions, but subsequently being left without her formal means identification too, in the familiar unfamiliar surroundings of her Thailand hostel, she has to trace her own lines from one place to the next.

The important element of storytelling, for O’Keefe, is what shape the narrative takes, and, in turn, how that shape allows the audience ‘to feel the story in the right form’. In wish I was… the shape of Aisling’s journey draws on the notion of the Dreaming – the passing down of knowledge and spiritual law through stories that map songlines in Aboriginal Australian oral history. Another essential part of her role as performer asks the question: ‘Why are we here, and what are we here for?’ In other words, how has this collective group of individuals, each following their own story or songlines, arrived together in this place? Through this democratic approach to theatre-making, O’Keefe applies a personable style, engendering familiarity over fear, and values the audience’s presence as a necessity to the performer’s existence; her wish is to make them feel desired, to know that they are of equal importance in the space.

Photo (c):Tabitha Goble

Photo (c): Tabitha Goble

While wish I was… is O’Keefe’s first solo production, which she began writing several years ago and produced in Ireland as part of SHOW festival in 2013, and performed at Collaborations festival in Dublin earlier this year. This is indeed a collaborative piece too, with a score by Shane O’Sullivan that intervenes at various points in the narrative. Its layered rhythms respond to the changing tempo of Aisling’s fractured account, as she traces her own songline through a landscape of sounds. Directed by Judi Chalmers, she recites her journey at an often frantic pace, embodying the language of her own associative word-play through sharp, quirky movements, as Aisling tries to relocate her sense of self. She is followed, however, by the identity and story of another woman, and the loss of a ‘you’ that proves monumental. O’Keefe delves towards the complex boundaries that are placed on female experience, something she has explored in previous work, most recently Brief last year, which questioned the drastic lengths women in Ireland have had to go to in need of an abortion. In this way her work responds to contemporary issues but remains focused on the narrative of the individual – even if that individual begins to divide in to a multitude.

(c) Joanna Lally, 2015

Find out more about IMPFEST here: http://impfest.tumblr.com/About

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Preview: My Mind is Free by Sam Hall

My Mind is Free imageAs regular visitors to this website will know, 17Percent’s founder, Sam Hall, has been working on a play about human trafficking, which tours in October 2015. The play has been cast and rehearsals are about to begin. 

The main aim of the play is to raise awareness for World Anti-Slavery Day (18 October 2015). There are an estimated 30 million slaves in the world, with approximately 13,000 in the UK. Modern day slavery victims include: women forced into prostitution, imprisoned domestic staff, and workers in fields, factories, building sites and fishing boats.

Jude Spooner, founder of London-based Rah Rah Theatre Company, commissioned playwright Sam to tell stories of human trafficking in a play, which tours venues in London and the Southeast this October, supported by Arts Council England.

Jude and Sam were inspired to team up on the play to raise awareness of this injustice in the UK. Sam was first inspired to start researching human trafficking after being approached by Merton Against Trafficking to write some stories for a fundraising event in 2014. Jude is part of New Malden Abolition group, a group set up to help the charity Hope For Justice  which exists to put a stop to human trafficking and slavery in our generation, so has an interest in the topic. Her goal is to share her knowledge about this modern day crime and to create an artistic response to this, which will both provoke and disturb in equal measures.

My Mind is Free will tell the stories of some of the people who have fallen into what can only be described as modern day slavery and the play is inspired by true life stories from victims, which have then been fictionalised.

Where possible, each performance will also have a speaker from an anti-trafficking charity so the audience can find out more about what to do if they think somebody is being trafficked near them.

Full list of venues: (for more info and to book visit the website).
Thursday 1 October 2015 7.30pm:  Margate House, Margate, Kent
Friday 2 October 2015 7.30pm: The Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable, Kent
Saturday 3 October 2015 7.30pm: Haslemere Abolition Group, Haslemere, Surrey
Sunday 4 October 2015 3pm: Wimbledon BookFest, London
Monday 5 October 2015 – 7.30pm: Strood Baptist Church, Strood, Kent
Tuesday 6 October 2015: King’s College London, Strand Campus, Ground floor, London
Wednesday 7 October 2015 7.30pm: Colour House Theatre, London
Thursday 8 October 2015 8pm: St Catherine’s Neighbourhood Centre, Reading
Friday 9 October 8pm: Balham Baptist Church, London
Saturday 10 October 2015 7.30pm: New Malden Baptist Church, London
Sunday 11 October 2015, 7pm (starts 7.30pm): Rochester Literature Festival 2015, Kent
Monday 12 October 2015: Resource for London, Holloway Road, London
Tuesday 13 October 2015: Katherine Low settlement, Battersea, London
Wednesday 14 October 2015 7.30pm: The Library, Willesden, London
Thursday 15 October 2015: KAHAILA, Brick Lane, London.
Friday 16 October 2015: Fairfield Halls, Croydon

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Review: Orchid by Michelle Payne and Daniel Len, at Moors Bar in Crouch End

Photo of Jimmy Jameson and Michelle Payne)

Jimmy Jameson and Michelle Payne.

Imagining the future can be a hard task in your twenties; each day is beset by renewed anxiety about where you’ll be – and what you’ll be doing – next week, next month, next year. And it’s even more difficult to conceive of when you throw an apocalypse into the mix.

With all the hype going on in Scotland this month, it’s necessary to be reminded that the artistic world down South and in London doesn’t go on hiatus for all of August, but continues producing exciting new work, particularly as part of the Camden Fringe festival. Michelle Payne’s debut play Orchid, written with Daniel Len and directed by James Milton, conjures a bleak world after ‘The Fall’, where human survivors are living in the underground tube network. The story follows a group of five friends, who form part of a community who trade their supplies but are under constant threat of being sieged by another larger group like King’s Cross. Against her friends’ protests, and the on-going fight for safety, Orchid (Payne) wants to do the impossible: find a way back to the surface, to a world that she can now barely remember. For her, anything would be better than the darkness where night and day are indistinguishable. Orchid touches on similar imagery and ideas as other post-apocalyptic dramas (scenes from The Road, The Hunger Games, and Children of Men flashed through my mind while I was watching Orchid’s journey unravel) although the play’s scope is certainly more London-centric. Despite the limited stage space of the Moors Bar Theatre, the production manages to envisage a huge landscape of detritus and decay. The costume and lighting design show inventive touches, including the slightly wacky use of torches. A gentle score, composed by Tom Baynton, also accompanies the action.

Although the production involves a diverse creative input, it’s clear that Payne, as writer and producer (as well as playing the title role) is the real driving force behind the piece. Her performance as Orchid is alive and engaged, and the character’s speeches are refreshingly poetic. Her hunger to look for something more, the natural world from which she descended, baffles her more practically minded companions, and especially their group leader Thomas (Jimmy Jameson), although she does receive support from the more hot-headed Kane (Dan Jameson). Emma Pritchard and Will Richards, who play siblings Grace and Jack, complete the impassioned yet thoughtful performances of this ensemble.

While Orchid has already finished its short run at the Camden Fringe, the creative team will hopefully regroup again for further festival outings in the next year (watch this space). The hour of the play feels brief – there is so much content tearing at the seams that I felt it could easily expand into a longer work, allowing the audience to learn more about this world and each character’s journey to this point. This play has come from a place of passion and frustration, its makers say, and the need to widen access to creative work to the many, not the few. However, it’s a frustration that is possibly borne from something more ominous; Payne writes, in her programme note, about living in a conflicted time. A similar feeling is echoed in a recent Evening Standard interview with playwright Simon Stephens, in which he describes our current world as one of ‘profound safety but with a deeply troubling sense that something awful is about to happen.’  That sense of unknowing, which she and Len have successfully captured in their writing, completely pervades our current culture of media desensitization. Is there still a world above, and beyond, our heads, and, if so, what does it look like? What happens when we scratch through the darkness?Like Orchid, we need to wake up and go looking for the light.

Orchid played 23-25 August 2015, at Moor Bar in Crouch End. 

(c) Joanna Lally, 2015

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Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot at Underbelly Cowgate

Courtesy of Cecilia Cooper-Colby

Courtesy of Cecilia Cooper-Colby

The ‘White Belly’, at Underbelly Cowgate, looks as though it was made to be a military air base, with a pleated roof that curves over the long and narrow space, it is an ideal setting for Rebecca Crookshank’s tale of life as a young woman in the Royal Air Force. At first she hopes to join the Marines (in her father and grandfather’s steps) but finds out that there is a limit to women’s opportunity in this division of the military. A personal account, brimming with colourful characters that she embodies across the different points in her story, it never once feels self-indulgent – rather Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a series of observations that chart importantly the challenges faced by women in a cut-throat and testosterone heavy environment.

Crookshank is a natural and engaging performer, leading the audience through the highs and lows of military – some of them serious turning points in her family life that continue without her outside of the base during her time first as a 17-year old trainee, and then as an officer posted out to the Falklands. It’s hard not to get carried away with the vital energy and enthusiasm she displays in her impersonations of rule-enforcing superiors and other officers. Her relationship with her ‘wing woman’ comes to shape a large part of her experience of the airforce, and their adventures, including heavy drinking and dancing to S Club 7 and the Spice Girls, provide some light relief (and a bit of glitz) to the restrictions of life on the base. However, she later becomes isolated from the company of other female officers when she is sent out to a base in the Falklands. There she has to deal with the constant strain of sexual harassment from her male counterparts who drive her towards breaking point, and conditions that end particularly badly for a certain stuffed animal. Crookshank’s honest retelling of makes us aware of this normalised misogyny, without railing against it or condoning the behaviour of her peers.

This spirited production as a whole is a celebration of her time, complete with creative costume changes, photo and video documentation, as well as giving a darker insight into a male-dominated institution from one woman’s perspective. Crookshank manages to juxtapose the different parts of her personality, the soldier and the creative, in an entertaining fringe debut.

(c) Joanna Lally, 2015

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Review: Where Do Little Birds Go? by Camilla Whitehill

Co-produced by Duckdown Theatre and Heavy Weather Theatre, Camilla Whitehill’s debut full-length play has already garnered some attention this year, winning the People’s Choice Award at Vault Festival 2015, and is now selling out to audiences at Edinburgh’s Underbelly. It details the experiences of Lucy Fuller, who as a seventeen year-old girl moves to London in 1966, with hopes of becoming a West End star. At the age of eighteen she is kidnapped by two of the city’s most notorious gangsters.

It’s a darkly enthralling story, expertly delivered by Jessica Butcher, who is both assertive and vulnerable as Fuller. Against her uncle’s best wishes she starts a barmaid job at The Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel, where she is then scouted by the Krays to work as a hostess in their Mayfair venue, Winston’s, with the promise of beginning her career as a singer. Lucy performs songs at several points during her narrative, including a refrain of ‘Where do little birds go?’ – that is a moving reminder of her agency, despite the terrible situation in which she finds herself. The more surprisingly element to the story is the sympathy she feels towards the ‘axe-murderer’ Frank, who she is locked into a grimy flat with for four days, when it becomes apparent he is just as trapped as she is. We sense her fear knowing that she ‘will probably die here’ – it crushes her fighting spirit, but does not destroy it entirely.

The production is set in the interior of Winston’s – a bar with female hostesses and dancers who make extra cash by serving ‘afters’ to some of the clientele, and Justin Nardella’s design draws on the glamour and filth of the nightclub scene. At times the musical interludes come across as slightly forced, and the movement repetitive, although in one scene this repetition is used to build an effective discomfort in the audience as we are made aware of Lucy’s sexual exploitation.

As much as it is about Lucy’s terrifying experience of being brought into the criminal dealings of the Krays (based on the true story of Lisa Prescott), Whitehill’s play is also an evocative study of the world of 1960s East London, a time when streets were rife with the fear created by Ronnie and Reggie Kray – men, Lucy tells us, who do not have any friends. It is the strangeness of this unknown piece of history that really captivates in Where Do Little Birds Go? and proves to make a fine solo performance at this year’s Fringe.

Where Do Little Birds Go?
Edinburgh Festival: Underbelly (Big Belly) ‘til 30th August

(c) Joanna Lally, 2015

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