Edinburgh Fringe 2015
An exploration of sexual exploitation and class based on the true story of a London night club hostess who, in 1966, was kidnapped by the Kray twins.
This one-woman play is based on the real-life story of Lisa Prescott, an 18 year old night club hostess in 1960s London, abducted by the Kray twins and held in an east end flat for four days to ‘service’ an escaped convict, Frank ‘The Mad Axeman’ Mitchell.
Little is known about Lisa and writer Camilla Whitehill has chosen to tell her story through the fictional character of Lucy Fuller using as much biographical detail as she could find but not claiming to be authentic. An interesting choice as it seems to have allowed her greater freedom to explore the way that a character such as Lisa/Lucy becomes a footnote to a crime story.
There is evidence that Mitchell became very attached to Lisa, he wrote her a Christmas card before being enticed to leave to ‘spend Christmas in the country’ – and being shot within minutes… and records suggest that she may have reciprocated his feelings. That abductees sometimes become attached to their captors is well documented, although in a sense both Prescott and Mitchell were in captivity. The story captures both the fear that Lucy feels – she knows how the Kray twins deal with those who are no longer useful to them and her pity for Mitchell as she starts to see the weak and sad man behind the headlines.
This play gives a voice to an almost unknown woman together with a glimpse into the past. Whitehill creates a convincing and believable character in a world that has now disappeared. The only slightly jarring moment being the car crash in which Lucy’s beloved Uncle Keith dies which seemed a little convenient; the thing that tips her from merely being a hostess into sex work in order to make ends meet.
Lucy (Jessica Butcher) bounces on and starts by revealing that she was once kidnapped by the Kray twins. She then takes us back to arriving in London and her first excitement at getting a hostess job at Winston’s night club where she first met the Krays. Butcher’s performance is lively, a starry eyed girl arriving in London for the first time, convinced that the streets will be paved with gold. It is easy to forget in these days of nonstop information that London, to a girl from a small south coast town, would be as strange is another country or planet would be now. Butcher presents a thoroughly innocent young woman, with a slightly gauche Twiggy look, and creates a sense of what the east end was like when it was dominated by the Kray twins in the days before gentrification. A mix of exciting, dangerous, sexy and seedy. Her energy never flags and the story is well paced – high energy but with space to appreciate the subtleties. And, in addition there is a generous dollop of 60s music, including the ‘Where do Little Birds Go?’ of the title.
The setting of one of the vaults at Underbelly provides a nice feel of the seedier side of London night life in 1966 when crime gangsters from the east end mixed with film celebrities.
If you were around in the 60s you will love it for the music and the nostalgia and if you weren’t you can just wonder at what Hoxton was once like! But also a provocation to think about the Lisa’s and Lucy’s of the 21st century, young women who are exploited by powerful men.