Based on the true story of Lisa Prescott, who was kidnapped
by the Kray Twins and essentially donated as a sex-slave to an escaped
murderer, Camilla Whitehill's
All of the elements of this piece are constantly in harmony.
We meet Lucy Fuller (based on Prescott) as a young girl finding her feet in London, dazzled by the glamour of the Blind Beggar pub (presumably more glamorous in 60s London than now), and Winstons - the Kray’s nightclub in Mayfair. Giving us Lucy’s story pre-ordeal, rather than just focusing on the horror of the flat in which she was held captive, is a mature decision by Whitehill which reaps its reward in the audience’s complete engagement with and affection for Lucy. Jessica Butcher is flawless in the role - she’s witty, silly, charming, naive and brash all at once. She nails the estuary accent, the child-like exuberance of the 18 year old Lucy, and the maturity and pain of the damaged woman she becomes. She lets us in on these nuances through the smallest of gestures or changes in tone - visibly stiffening at the mention of the Krays even before we’ve heard why. Her descriptions paint the other characters in full 3D and imbue them with qualities as complex and contradictory as her own. She also has a killer singing voice, and the punctuation of the story with sudden belting of aptly chosen songs adds lightness and sorrow in equal measure. It really is a stunning performance.
When the kidnapping and subsequent abuse come, they are handled sensitively and with a grace that matches the head-held-high attitude of Butcher’s Lucy. Escaped murderer Frank Mitchell and the accomplices in the house are complexly drawn too and Lucy feels for them even as she is imprisoned and repeatedly raped. The staging of the abuse is particularly well done - a subtle repetitive almost-dance in which Butcher puts herself in position, pain both physical and mental visible in her face and posture, changes position, repeats the cycle - becoming increasingly tired, teary and eventually dead-eyed and eerily calm. It’s a fantastic bit of directing from Sarah Meadows - communicating the horrific whilst keeping your focus on the inner life of the victim rather than the mechanics. It also feels entirely woven into the piece given that Lucy has danced around the three level set for most of the play, and makes great use of heightened physicality at other points.
In fact, all of the elements of this piece are constantly in harmony: the simple set of cabaret tables and a bar, the choice of songs both sung and recorded, the costume design. Butcher is in a gold mini-dress with white stockings, but adding a white fur stole she’s transformed into a glamorous club hostess, and removing her stockings she’s instantly made vulnerable in the kidnapped scenes. The piece, as it is, is flawless, and my only criticism can be that there could have been more - it would have been nice to know more about how Lucy fared long-term, and her story feels a little incomplete as is, especially as this gorgeous little piece had me utterly invested in her.