REVIEW: Where Do Little Birds Go?, Vault Festival ✭✭✭✭

Jessica Butcher as Lucy in Where Do Little Birds Go? A new play by Camilla Whitehill

Where Do Little Birds Go?
Vault Festival
6 February 2015
4 Stars

“My name is Lucy Fuller. I am 24 and I live in Whitechapel. When I was 18 I was kidnapped by the Kray twins, and locked in a flat with an escaped murderer”

So reads the poster and teaser for Camilla Whitehill's new play Where Do Little Birds Go?, the title taken from the song sung by Barbara Windsor in Lionel Bart's first musical Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be!

Lucy Fuller starts the play as a 17 year old innocent, full of youthful bravado and that indestructable belief that comes with youth. It's not too long before her journey down the rabbit hole of late night London, and the world of the Krays, brings down that bravado leaving her youth shattered.

Where Do Little Birds Go? is a one act play that runs at just on 65 minutes. That's no mean feat for a young actress to pull off and Jessica Butcher does an admirable job. Lucy is a happy-go-lucky spirit always singing and Whitehill has tried to integrate this musical spirit into the play, sometimes with more success then others, but with enough success that it enhances Lucy's character rather than detracting from it. Her comment about Nancy singing in bars in Oliver! being a complete misrepresentation is apt and goes down well with the audience.

Whitehill and Butcher weave a multi-layered tapestry of life in London in the late 60's for those surviving on London's nightlife skirting the criminal classes. Lucy's period of confinement at the hands of the Krays is in stark contrast to the rest of Lucy's story. Scenes demonstrative of the sexual abuse and misery when Lucy is confined are quite harrowing if somewhat clumsily staged.

Of course, for some it doesn't end well and Lucy is forever changed by the experience. The youthful joy extinguished from her eyes and a more resigned world-wearied Lucy emerges.

Whilst Director Sarah Meadows has bought this story to life with flair, it still needs some more depth and a slightly faster pace in sections to keep the flow going. Justin Nardella creates a set design that allows for a playing space that is everything from East London bar to Mayfair nightclub to dingy flat. It's serviceable and works, but large gaps in large show podiums mean that Butcher is quite often lurching from one to another rather than achieving a lady like grace as one might expect.

It is unfortunate at the performance I saw that an uncredited sound operator all but ruined several key scenes, particularly the last moments of the play by having accompanying music drown out Butchers dialogue.

However, these small things aside, Where Do Little Birds Go? is a great hour in the theatre. It's funny and poignant in equal measure. The play now tours to Salford, Brighton, Belfast, Bedford and Derby and is well worth a visit. For those of you with a penchant for tales of London's underworld in the sixties, this is a must see.

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