Lynne Hague reviews Where Do Little Birds Go?
Camilla Whitehill’s one act play builds a vivid picture of one teenage girl’s experience of life in the mid 60s.
In a strong performance by Jessica Butcher we follow the story of 24-year-old Lucy Fuller, who recollects how she left her family in Hastings at the age of 17 to live in the East End of London.
Lucy took a job as a barmaid at the Blind Beggar, where customers were part of the gangland culture and where she first encountered the notorious Kray twins. Lucy’s dream was to sing in the West End and so when the Krays helped her to become a club hostess she hoped that it would lead to a career break for her. All it led her to, however, was a life of prostitution; earning extra cash by sleeping with nightclub clients. The Krays called in a favour from her and took her to a flat in Barking to provide sex and companionship for a criminal they had sprung from jail. Essentially, this was a four-day imprisonment where she was abused.
The play works well in the small, intimate setting of the Old Red Lion Theatre. The set is minimalist; a few tables, chairs and a bar, which Lucy walks around, up and over. The play is interspersed with Lucy singing and the musical score works well to build an atmosphere of the era. Jessica Butcher’s performance is convincing – Lucy confides in you directly about her life and comes across as slightly traumatised, yet also as a survivor. You feel that she is not entirely comfortable with the way her life has panned out and has tried to put the bad experiences behind her.
It has its joyful moments and there are some comic lines which are well executed and well received by the audience. It paints a good picture of social conditions of the time- of class and of gender, and artfully draws a comparison across the 40 years’ time difference: how far have we moved on? Perhaps our society still derides certain types of women, believing some to be asking for abuse and exploitation. Where Do Little Birds Go? is intelligent and thought provoking and plays at The Old Red Lion Theatre until November 26th. It is highly recommended.