Review: and the little one said…, Cock Tavern

“I don’t know what makes me more sad- that you went, or that you didn’t come back earlier.”

Marking my first visit to Kilburn’s Cock Tavern Theatre was a trip to see a new play and the little one said… by Laura Stevens. Centred on the story of Ben, who was kidnapped as a 10 year old boy and has finally been reunited with what remains of his family after 8 years, the play looks at his difficult transition back into the real world, away from his abductor, a situation made much worse by a hungry media who won’t leave this potentially huge (as they see it) story alone.

Stevens managed the slow reveal of information about Ben’s predicament extremely well, drawing the audience into the awful truth about what happened and the utterly devastating effects of terrible grief on a family. And in being economical which exactly what she divulges to us, the power of the play is amplified as our minds race to imagine what could have inspired the anguish we see on the faces of the people he tells. She is ably served by an excellent performance from Chris O’Shea as the traumatised Ben. Suffering from something akin to Stockholm Syndrome with his ongoing concern for his captor, O’Shea portrayed the emotionally stunted teenager with an affecting directness, painful at times with his warped ideas of love and sex, his inability to socialise and the slow journey to acceptance of what has happened to him.

As his twin sister, Samantha Scott had a superb vitality, her teenage vocabulary feeling beautifully accurate in both its profanity and its awkwardness in articulating how she really feels after 8 long years. She really comes into her own though with a stunning monologue as she finally manages to articulate the pain she has suffered, the abandonment of a separated twin, it is a stunning moment. Maeve Ryan manages to pull off that rarest of beasts, a journalist with morals, as the kindly Ella who struggles to deal with the opportunities of the chance at a massive news story as she realises the impact it is having on the person she has come to know, behind the headlines.

Adrian Francis’ Dad suffered from being the least developed of the characters, not really giving enough depth beyond the confusion of a parent without the ability to comfort his child and Francis relying a little too much on a shouty style when more subtle shading might have been more convincing. Still, it helped to further intensify the action in the already intimate Cock Tavern, director Charlotte Peters opting to maximise the claustrophobic feel of being trapped, whether by the media outside the door or the oppressive fear of terrible experience.

and the little one said… is rarely an easy watch, few plays about child abduction are, but Stevens’ play has a pleasing acuity that cuts deep to the uncomfortable 24/7 news culture that has developed, forcing ‘celebrity’ on victims of tragedy and demanding easy answers even when none are instantly forthcoming. And in sketching the dynamics of these events on a shattered family, she alights on an emotional honesty which is bruising but ultimately moving, especially in the performances of O’Shea and Scott.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 26th February

2 Replies to “Review: and the little one said…, Cock Tavern”

  1. Maybe I caught this on the wrong night. I thought O'Shea was very good and Stevens is certainly a writer to look out for. Her earlier play, Thin Toes, was also complex and interesting, but I found this production pretty sluggish in places and didn't quite buy some of the characters' reactions.

  2. Maybe, I cut this a little more slack than usual, but I did find it engaging and I enjoyed seeing it without having read any of the publicity so really went on the 'journey' of finding out what had happened as Stevens told us. And Dad aside, thought it was convincingly done. Hadn't heard of her before now, but agree she could be one to watch.

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