In her first full length play, Camilla Whitehill presents the compelling tale of a woman kidnapped by the most notorious gangsters in East End history, the Kray twins. Presented by Duckdown Theatre and Heavy Weather Theatre, Where Do Little Birds Go? is an engaging production which imagines a past and future for Lisa Prescott, renamed Lucy Fuller. Jessica Butcher plays Fuller, who spent four days locked in a flat with ‘The Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell. The setting: Winston’s nightclub, designed by Justin Nardella with lit platforms and a sparkly backdrop – glamour and grunge in equal measure.
Whitehill noticed Prescott’s absence in reports about the Krays or Mitchell, and set out to reclaim a history for her. The play opens with a song- Lucy Fuller has dreams of becoming a West End star- which has Butcher defiant on the bar of Winston’s nightclub. This first song feels grating; no context is given for it and the zeal with which it’s performed seems forced. As the show progresses, the songs begin to make sense contextually and add a layer of escapism to Fuller’s personality, although they still at times seem like an afterthought, wedged in with a clunky lead-up.
Director Sarah Meadows presents a heartfelt account of eighteen year old Fuller’s ordeal, asking the audience to listen to the character at the heart of the story. Given a platform to voice her experiences, Fuller can’t stop talking, creating the world of the story as she moves across the levels of the space. Excitement and pain is shared in this sympathetic, lively portrayal of a woman who refuses to be labelled a victim. Where Do Little Birds Go? is gritty but never brooding; Butcher engages with the audience with genuine charm and humour. The direction is mostly consistent, despite attempts at physical theatre which aren’t cohesive with the rest of the piece.
A backlash against the glamorisation of mobster violence, Where Do Little Birds Go? gives a voice to a woman left out of the history books. Consistently entertaining, this is an absorbing play that’s full of heart.
Where Do Little Birds Go? is playing at Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) until 30 August (no performance on 17). For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.