Best of VAULT Festival
Review 2015

Where Do Little Birds Go? 

★★★★★

Performer: Jessica Butcher

Writer: Camilla Whitehill

Director: Sarah Meadows
25 January - 20 March 2022
vaultfestival.com

London is a city that is filled with legend, mystery and figures who have had an indelible role in shaping the capital.

 

Organised crime played a huge part in the identity of the city. Several controversial periods between the 1950s & 1960s allowed brothers Ronnie & Reggie Kray to develop the biggest grip over London.

 

There can’t be anyone in the UK who doesn’t know about The Kray Twins and even today there remains a tinge of fascination in the two brothers. From the hit 1990s movie The Krays, starring Martin & Gary Kemp, to nearly 40 books written about the brothers the public's appetite to know more about The Krays has never seemed to waver - there is even a new film to be released in 2015 called Legend based on John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence.

 

As is the case of The Krays the focus tends to be on the criminals and very rarely shines a light on the victims resulting in a distorted and biased view of who they really were. This is playwright Camilla Whitehall’s first full-length play goes a long way to restore this imbalance and in the process gives life to one of The Krays victims that is unimaginable.

A 17 year-old Lucy Fuller, Jessica Butcher, moved to London with the hope of staying with an Aunt she’s not seen in years. Lucy finds herself sat alone on the stoop of her Aunts East End flats steps. On finding out her Aunt no longer lives there by her Uncle he gives Lucy a home and stability. This unfortunately manages to shield Lucy from the murky underbelly of London’s East End.

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"Whitehill’s aim in writing this play was to give a voice to the woman in this story and does so with respect and care."

Like most young girls of the time, Lucy Fuller is bright, vivacious, smart and cocky but maintains her innocent charm filled with dreams of becoming a singer. Working in the local pub, against her Uncle’s wishes, she meets The Krays for the first time and it isn’t long before she’s offered a hostessing job at one of London’s top nightclubs Winston’s in Mayfair.  

 

With her Uncle picking her up every night after work Lucy begins her job at Winston’s almost instantly discovering that things are a lot more complicated than they first appeared. After a simple twist of fate, Lucy finds herself alone, struggling yet determined, but another chance meeting with The Krays will change her life for good.

 

Butcher is stunning as Lucy Fuller and manages to bring out the humanity and innocents that is at the heart of Whitehill’s play. Justin Nardella’s set gives Butcher the freedom to move and realistically bring to life the multiple places in Lucy’s story and the bareness is, at times, powerfully haunting. 

 

Whitehill’s aim in writing this play was to give a voice to the woman in this story and does so with respect and care. There is a brilliance to be found in the authenticity of this play that never tries to over-explain anything or to inject modern narratives or understandings of the period.

 

Based in part on the real-life and experiences of Lisa Prescott during her captivity at 206a Barking Road in London with escaped convict Frank Mitchell the audience hears a genuine voice that is truthful and we instantly connect to a victim who may be never saw herself as a victim. Through Whitehill’s text a real evil is that goes far beyond the urban myths of The Krays and begins to be unpacked in such a subtle way. As Lucy starts to describe life living in the East End and working in Winston’s in a short space of time she is no longer the naive 17 year old and yet still maintains her dignity.

 

Director Sarah Meadows has connected to Whitehill’s text well which has enabled her to work with Butcher on fully realising such a complex, damaged but strong character. There is heart, passion, fear, and humour that Meadows brings out of Whitehill’s text that makes Lucy relatable. At times the pauses between scenes can be a little jarring but serve the narrative well as it is only during these moments of slight reflections that we see the truly vulnerable Lucy Fuller.