Lost and distant: All The Little Lights @arcolatheatre

All the Little Lights by Jane Upton is a dark and moving story about girls who have slipped through the net. But the unsettling part of the piece is that they can come from all sorts of backgrounds and how easy it can happen to anyone. It's playing at the Arcola Theatre.

It opens with Lisa (Sarah Hoare) and Joanne (Tessie Orange-Turner). Once they were like sisters but something has happened and now they're distant.

Joanne wants her to stay for a birthday party celebration but Lisa doesn't want to stay long. Joanne's camping out by the railway line just outside a large grim English town of no importance. Far away from their families that homes off in the distance are just little lights.

There's a tent, some balloons and a lot of garbage turned into decorations. Amy (Esther-Grace Button) is along with them. But  it's clear she's not had the same experiences as the other two and oblivious to what is going on.

This sets the scene for a final night for the girls to spend together. On the edge of a city that's indifferent to them and on the brink of being lost. Together they recall their friendships and their brief experiences with childhood.

The cast bring out the sense of innocence lost. And the strength of this piece is drawn from how it gives a voice to girls caught in this situation

Upton's work is inspired by real life stories. It was developed with the support of the charity Safe and Sound which works to keep children from sexual exploitation.

Part of the power of this piece is to inform and educate a wider audience on how exploitation and abuse can happen. Like Firebird, another production that presented the stark horrors of child exploitation, this piece also brings to mind the scandals from Rochdale and Rotherham. But it will also have you leaving wondering where else this is happening.

Directed by Laura Ford, All The Little Lights is at the Arcola Theatre until 4 November.


Photos by Robert Day

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