Where Do Little Birds Go?
When East End gangster Frank Mitchell – also known as the Mad Axeman – escaped from Dartmoor, the Kray twins brought a young woman to the grubby flat in which he was holed up in order to keep him docile. The woman, if she’s remembered at all, is a footnote, merely a thing for him to play with. Camilla Whitehill’s play, inspired by her story, sets out to give her a voice, to put the audience in her precariously high-heeled shoes. Renamed Lucy here, she comes to London in her late teens and soon lands a job as a hostess at a popular Mayfair nightclub, where she comes to the Krays’ attention.
Jessica Butcher gives an incredibly rich performance in the role, funny and warm-hearted, endearing even when silently miming her repeated brutalisation at the hands of Mitchell. She also has a strong singing voice which Sarah Meadows’ production makes the most of.
As horrific as some of the events depicted are, this is a measured, intelligent piece. Whitehill’s writing is nuanced and evocative, excellent at scene setting, at conjuring a sense of London in the late 1960s, while subtly acknowledging the relevance of the things Lucy is subjected to, her utter lack of power. The whole thing is brilliantly judged, with a clear sense of itself; a fascinating, if appalling story told with skill, charm, a surprising amount of wit and real emotional potency.