Where Do Little Birds Go? – Old Red Lion, London

Writer: Camilla Whitehall
Director: Sarah Meadows
Reviewer: Heather Deacon

There’s something charming about London in the 60s, until you remember those Kray twins ruled half of it. There’s something just as charming, and a little moreish, about Lucy Fuller, the solo storyteller prancing about singing and reminiscing in Where Do Little Birds Go by Camilla Whitehall, until you remember the story she’s here to tell involving the Krays, for how can a story involving the Krays end well? This dark cloud of apprehension gives the play its woeful appeal and is why it wholly deserves its transfer from the Camden People’s Theatre to the gorgeous Old Red Lion.

tell-us-block_editedJessica Butcher as Lucy Fuller is a sensation, drawing in her overflowing audience with brazen side glances and a cheekiness that can only really come from an 18-year-old if they’ve been through too much. She relishes the spotlight, bursting into song with glee and cavorting over and through Justin Nardella’s nightclub set that seems to perfectly transform from a grotty East End boozer (the notorious Blind Beggar in Whitechapel), to an expensive yet classless hostess club (Winston’s Nightclub) at Butcher’s whim and with the help of Jamie Platt’s lighting. The lighting is certainly atmospheric, but at times, probably due to the number of cues, seems to intrude on the poignancy of the piece… Sarah Meadows’ joyful and sophisticated direction is enough to convey the transitions.

Whitehall’s words roll off Butcher’s tongue, with the relish of a wannabe performer with a captive audience. She writes to entertain, with musical breaks and enough laughs to fend off the sadness. It does leave you wanting, with a number of unanswered questions at its conclusion and with important parts of the story brushed over as the play approaches the 1 hour playtime. The fact that she was a witness in the Kray twins infamous 1969 court case is barely given two sentences, with her safety questioned but never elaborated… surely there’s a few more minutes of this story to tell? It feels like an epic first episode with a cliffhanger to keep you waiting for the next. This is a little frustrating, though you can’t stay mad at Fuller as she drinks in the spotlight one last time.

It’s no surprise that this play is written, produced, managed, and performed by women. It’s themes of sexual exploitation are as relevant as ever, despite it being set over 50 years ago, in an era whose fashion is used for fancy dress. No girl power here, only a misguided aspiration highlighted by the song Bells Will Ring which bookends the show, one of many 60s classics that underline the story. Fuller is a character who may never find love, only a vague parody of it… a sad thought, which is exactly what this play leaves you with.

Runs until 29 November 2016 | Image: Camilla Whitehill

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