Camden Fringe 2019: All the Little Lights at Tristan Bates Theatre
A bold take on an uncomfortably controversial topic, All the Little Lights is a short and extremely well-executed three-hander which tackles the theme of sexual abuse of children. With a minimalistic set design, a strong cast consisting of three women and a script with grippingly realistic dialogue, this is a powerful and daring play with massive potential.
Rape is a sensitive topic to portray on stage, and the sexual exploitation of children even more so. Here it is handled with a good amount of delicacy and build-up, which does it justice. With the help of Amy (Emily Fairn), Joanne (Lucy Mabbitt) stages a birthday party for her long-lost best friend Lisa (Erin Mullen), who had left and found a new family after an initially unnamed event. At first, neither of them refer to the dreadful occurrences of the night that triggered Lisa’s departure, but as they move on – and Lisa discovers that Joanne is still in the clutches of a grooming gang – the pair open up to one another and give voice to what has remained unspoken for too long.
The power of such a piece needs to come from the language, and Jane Upton’s writing is very strong indeed. The characters all feel like realistic portrayals of young teenagers struggling with such issues, and the pacing – with a few hiccups here and there – is equally well-executed and believable. It certainly also helps that all three actors – especially Mabbitt as a brilliantly energetic and multifaceted Joanna – are very strong, especially given that they are all making their professional debut in this production.
There are a few minor weaknesses. At several points during the show, the actors are encouraged to scream at the top of their lungs, which, while realistic, is a bit too much and proves very noisy indeed. The pacing is outstanding for the most part, but there are a few instances where it suddenly feels a bit rushed. In the same spirit, most of the dialogue is wonderfully apt, but there are some clunky lines here and there.
These few quibbles aside – and they really are just quibbles – this is an outstanding performance and demonstrates massive potential for writer, director and actors alike. All the Little Lights certainly deserves its Writer’s Guild nomination for Best Play and marks one of the more important works to deal with sexual exploitation of children to date.
Photo: Katherine Leedale
All the Little Lights is at Tristan Bates Theatre from 12th until 17th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.