Review: ‘Where Do Little Birds Go?’
Sofia Quaglia delivers her verdict on the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub’s latest show, which takes us back to the days of the infamous Kray twins…
Camilla Whitehill’s hit production Where Do Little Birds Go? has come to London’s longest-running theatre pub, The Old Red Lion.
Taking the form of an extended, candid monologue, it’s yet another depiction of the infamous Kray twins, but this time told by somebody who was on the receiving end of their brutalities.
This one-woman-show stars Jessica Butcher as eighteen year-old Lucy Fuller, the young prostitute who was kidnapped by the brothers and trapped in a flat with escaped murderer Frank Mitchell.
It’s 1966 and Lucy leaves her family to chase her dreams in London. She ends up living with her nurturing uncle Keith and tries her luck as a show girl by serving at the Winston’s Nightclub, a shady venue in Mayfair.
Although her life is made of simple things, she is as happy as she ever thought she’d be. The good times don’t last too long, though, as her uncle dies in a car crash while heading to pick her up from her shift at the infamous club.
Lucy falls into prostitution in order to pay her bills and is swept into a world of violence and exploitation, quickly drawing the attention of Ronnie Kray and scheming European millionaires.
She’s dragged into one of the Krays’ villainous scandals as they free the ignominious convict Frank Mitchell, also known as the Mad Axeman, and lock her up with him so as to satisfy his needs.
The chilling tale is told by a survivor characterised by distant melancholy yet with a hopeful undertone in her voice. The youthful joy Butcher brings to the role contrasts heavily with the horrifying situation, as she sings and spins, telling the audience of all the great things she had aspired to do.
This tonal juxtaposition is so unsettling it walks the very thin line of accentuating the absolutely heart-wrenching trauma of the cruelty of the Krays and diminishing it.
On the one hand, the doll-like peppiness that adorns Lucy underlines the disgust one should feel towards the Krays; she’s funny, sweet and lighthearted, innocent to the point of vexation and not wanting too much from her surroundings, accidentally spiraling into a vicious cycle of stone-cold crimes.
On the other hand, although she does turn cold and distant due to her disgraceful misadventure; she’s not plagued by the terrors of those days as much as you’d expect her to be. It almost seems there’s an attempt to excuse others.
Although her interpretation of the Twins is a rigid one, as they are painted as heartless thugs, they’re explored only at a glance and that doesn’t convey much depth. I was almost waiting for them to show up on stage the whole time, wanting to meet them too, feeling I wasn’t getting the whole story.
Regardless of these little gaps in the production, Fuller is more than enough in her timid prancing, jolly singing and her witty acting to captivate.
Savvy, humorous and spontaneous, in the small room of the ancient pub she looks as comfortable as if at home, shining throughout whether she’s singing “Bells Will Ring” from the 1986 comedy play Charlie Girl, mimicking the crude icy clutch of abuse with a haunting stillness, or again flashing a cheeky smile when making a little sexual allusion.
Short, contained and touching, hers is an immensely satisfying performance which blends a heartbreaking nightmare with a bubbling persona to great effect.