The autumn/winter season at the Space on the Isle of Dogs got off to a punchy start this week with Little Fools. The play is a devised piece from Hooked Theatre, a female-founded theatre company created in 2016 by Brooke Jones (Harri) and Holly Kellingray (April). It’s only their second production and follows on from the success of Human at the Camden Fringe. They are joined on this occasion by Tom Hamblin (Charlie) and Elijah Khan (Nathan).
Little Fools is bristling with energy and innovation.
The stimulus for Little Fools comes from the other side of the world and is very specific but it’s interpretation has universal significance. In 2017 Australian politician Rachel Carling-Jenkins made a startlingly open and honest speech to the Victorian Legislative Council. She revealed that the year ago she had gone to the police and reported her husband for possession of child pornography, large quantities of which she had discovered on his home computer. She left the house that day with her son and returned only to pick up belongings. Over the course of a year she brought divorce proceedings but maintained public silence during the trial and sentencing that led to her then former husband’s imprisonment.
It’s a heavy story, but Little Fools is not a retelling. The girls’ focus is on the implications of such events for the family’s children. Hence, the issues raised are reset and explored through the everyday lives of two sisters who have to deal with police, media, friends and family when their father’s secret is revealed. They also have to struggle with reconciling their feelings towards the father they love and his newly-discovered behaviour. It’s done with a light touch that makes the topic accessible without losing its seriousness or impact. To add substance to the context April pals around with Nathan while Harri has a boyfriend, Charlie.
Jones and Kellingray have jointly written and directed Little Fools. While the content of the play is interesting it is the text and delivery that stands out. The girls have a particular passion for language and the power of words. Prose and poetry blend harmoniously as they explore the possibilities of narrative conversation, verse forms, rhythms and rhymes. This mix creates changes of emphasis from one scene to the next and enhances the pace. It’s matched by an engaging and unobtrusive use of movement that flows with the lyricism of the language, giving it physical accentuation. The two elements combine effortlessly and illustrate the ability of all four actors to deliver effectively on both fronts. They are well matched as an ensemble. The girls credibly appear as sisters yet have their own defining characteristics while the boys are distinctive in their different roles.
Little Fools is bristling with energy and innovation. Hooked Theatre seems to have found a theatrical niche and particular style that distinguishes them from the many groups of young performers struggling to establish themselves. This work is worthy of further development and should also leave audiences looking forward to more new works in the years ahead.