"All The Little Lights" by Jane Upton
Neville Studios, Nottingham Playhouse.
All the Little Lights is a game that is played by two of the characters in the play, Lisa and Joanne, and it involves looking down at the housing estate and making up people who live behind the lit windows. They give them a description of what they look like, their jobs and their lifestyle and habits. All very nice you may think, but there is a darker side to this game because you never know who is behind those lit windows and what they do.
This story, written by Jane Upton, focuses on the recent grooming of young girls for sex cases. It tells the story of Lisa (Sarah Hoare) and Joanne (Tessie Orange-Turner). Lisa has been the victim of this horrendous crime along with Joanne and Joanne has been trying to find Lisa, the girl she calls her sister. She's trying to save her from what has happened and what may happen again by getting her away from the dangerous atmosphere and the possibility of the leader of the grooming gang discovering where she is and coming after her.
Amy (Esther-Grace Button) is Joanne's new friend who is close to being sucked into the grooming ring by the sweet talking chip shop owner. Amy is just 12 years old and Lisa just turned 15. Joanne is the street-wise kid who, despite her actions and foul mouth is their guardian angel, their saviour, their protector. There are times when you wonder on who's side she is on but then she recounts why she carried out some of the actions she did. At the end resulting to violence towards Amy in an effort to protect her from having to go through what she had been through.
It's a shocking story that really hits home, especially because of the raw and shocking subject matter. You don't often get to see such honesty performed by women of such tender years, and boy do they not hold back. It will shock you at some of the language, but that is what drives home the gut wrenching honesty of what is happening in the world, probably as you're reading this.
Tessie is a brilliantly honest actor, who actually made me feel uncomfortable, for all the right reasons. She made me believe the horror of the story and the desperate situatiion she was in. on the other hand she also made you want to go and give her a hug for putting herself second in her protection of her friends. Tough love at it's best.
Sarah is another brilliant actor who made me believe the pain and the fear she was feeling and the horror that she may be found and returned to the sickening life she was involved in. her face was so expressive that you could almost sense the panic she was going through. Her jumpiness and nervousness at the though of being found as she thought her best friend had betrayed her to the gang.
Esther-Grace was amazing as the 12 year old who got excited at candles that wouldn't blow out and the soundtrack from "Frozen" and various other Disney films. Still incredibly naive, especially when she was told that the grooming gang leader who worked at the chip shop said he thought she was cute, not realising the real reason behind this seemingly harmless compliment.
This play is very dark but holds a great deal of humour. delivered in the language you'd expect to hear on the streets and from kids of that age group. It hammers home the dangers open to young girls who may fall prey to a little sweet talking compliments and this is very scary to know that this is happening today.
The scene is set next to a railway line, where they play an equally dangerous game, which will also get your heart pumping and if you let yourself forget where you are, makes you feel like you're eavesdropping on a group of campers, and not sat in a theatre setting.
Atmospheric lighting by Alex Stafford and a subtle soundscape designed by Max Pappenheim. The director Laura Ford and associate director, Angharad Jones have done a fantastic job at making this seem to be laid back and natural but with that tension hanging over us all, making the injection of humour a welcome escape.
Any play that can make you feel something, whether it be uncomfortable, sad, fear, hate or happiness has done what it set out to do, and this play certainly did that. It gave out an unnerving and thought-provoking message to us all, and I'm sure, like me, the rest of the audience went away discussing the play and its' talented cast long after its' 61 minutes ended. These three little lights shone very, very bright tonight.
"All The Little Lights" is on at the Neville Studio, Nottingham Playhouse until Thursday 22 October 2015.