Lucy Fuller was 18-years-old when the Kray twins, the most vicious gangland bastards of swinging sixties London, trapped her in a flat as the sex slave of Frank “The Mad Axeman” Mitchell, who was about as pleasant as he sounds. Tracing her path from lost teenage ingénue, dreaming of a future as a West End superstar, or failing that, a barmaid, Camilla Whitehill’s harrowing, humane play is a belly-stab of curdled violence and threat, pinned down by a mesmeric performance from Jessica Butcher.
Butcher plays Fuller smart, but vulnerable. We watch compromise after compromise, as Fuller shifts from barmaid to nightclub hostess to sex worker, until finally she finds herself knotted in Ronnie Kray’s harebrained scheme to free a killer from prison via media pressure and criminal chutzpah. As Fuller, Butcher is brassy and bold, with a sharp smile that explodes any sentimental ingénue assumptions. She belts out show tunes and sees through the placatory falsehoods of her captors.
It’s a smart, quietly brutal piece of writing by Whitehill, with an impressive command of its shades of darkness and viciousness, with the Krays the blackest of all: sleek, suited and implacably evil. Butcher’s performance slowly sharpens to a devastating climax, but it’s her portrayal of Mitchell’s ceaseless sexual demands, played out in tableaux of dreadful stillness under Sarah Meadow’s keenly judged direction, that persist so terribly. On a gorgeous set of illuminated pub tables from Justin Nardella, this is a near-perfect production thick with dread and menace.