Venue: Underbelly (Cowgate)
Duckdown Theatre and Heavy Weather Theatre’s Where Do Little Birds Go? is a refreshingly unfussy production which tells the story of Lucy Fuller, an 18 year old nightclub hostess who is kidnapped by the Kray twins and forced to play companion to escaped murderer Frank ‘The Mad Axeman’ Mitchell. Based on a true story, it could have easily been turned into a sentimental and sensationalist piece of theatre, but playwright Camilla Whitehall demonstrates a sophisticated restraint that pays off.
Jessica Butcher is simply bewitching as Lucy. She offers an incredibly nuanced portrayal of the teenager, capturing Lucy’s charismatic bolshiness as well as her naivety and vulnerability. She’s also surprisingly funny given the show’s dark subject matter. It’s difficult not to become emotionally invested in Lucy because Butcher makes her such an endearing character. Her performance possesses a physical dynamism that’s often missing in one person shows and she really makes the most out of the stage, crawling over the bar and stepping from podium to podium with ease. A large amount of time is spent detailing Lucy’s life prior to being kidnapped, including her dreams of stardom and her delight at moving to London. Where Do Little Birds Go? is interested in Lucy the person and not just Lucy the victim, which makes Mitchell’s abuse more harrowing when it’s finally discussed.
Butcher regularly slips into song during the show, impressing the audience with her powerful singing voice. The songs aren’t always integrated seamlessly into the show – one which is slotted in after Lucy hunts for a photo of the Kray twin is particularly jarring. However, music is generally used well and is particularly effective during the depictions of the abuse that Lucy suffers while in captivity.
Where Do Little Birds Go? is a thoughtfully designed, stylish production. The staging instantly transports the audience back to the 60s and though simple, Lisa’s costume changes cleverly reflect her changing status from wide-eyed teenager to showy nightclub hostess. They also serve as a powerful symbol of the abuse she experiences at the hands of Mitchell. The show’s ending is ambiguous and bittersweet as Lisa’s fate is left uncertain despite a superficially ‘happy’ ending. It’s the perfect conclusion to a haunting show that favours realism over melodrama and presents the audience with a charming young woman that you can’t help but root for.