What story does it tell? JU: Two teenage girls, once best friends, meet for the first time in months after a horrific event tore them apart. One is intent on throwing the other a surprise birthday party and her new younger friend is in on the secret. The play focuses on these three girls struggling to enjoy this dysfunctional party. But the past is never far behind them and dark truths start to emerge as the night creeps in. CM: What themes does the play explore? JU: The play was inspired by true stories of child sexual exploitation CSE , so of course it explores the theme of abuse and its effect on survivors. But I think the main theme of the play is society; how the structures in place, and we as individuals, are all complicit in allowing vulnerable people to slip through the cracks and be lost. And love, I think.
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It allows you to see the seemingly obvious factors at play in their lives — poverty, isolation, peer pressure — that make them vulnerable to abuse. When stories such as the Rochdale case shock us and make us wonder how this can happen, All the Little Lights offers some insight into how the lines between harmless fun and danger appear to blur for the children involved. This is important to help us understand how this happens: how children, even those with families that seem to care about them, can fall through the cracks in the system and in society. Three young girls, Joanne, Lisa, and Amy, are the only characters in the play, an important choice, as we see the story only from their perspective.
Joanne and Lisa were like sisters. Then Lisa left. Now they're back together for one last birthday party by the railway tracks. But can they salvage their friendship, or will ghosts of the past haunt them forever? Poignant, moving and darkly funny, All the Little Lights is the searing story of young girls slipping through the cracks in society, desperately searching for friendship, family and themselves. In a world where nobody wants you, what would you do to survive?
I n , playwright Jane Upton read about an 18 year old girl who was grooming other girls to be a part of a sex ring run by older men. It was this event, and the reactions to it, which prompted her to write All the Little Lights for Fifth Word. Joanne tries to lure her old best friend Lisa back into the friendship with a birthday party held in her campsite home. Sitting next to a busy rail track, the young girl Amy also visits and exchanges sexual favours for chips to please her older friend: the potential descent is visible to Lisa, ruining any chances of reconciliation with the haunts of the past which are clearly too raw to even be considered memories. Upton chooses deliberately for this to be the three female voices: they live in a world dominated by sexually manipulative men, their favourite memories being of watching Frozen and getting Nandos.