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Fringe review: Cassie and the Lights

Adelaide Fringe

What’s at stake when a child takes on the role of a parent? As a young girl fights to keep her family together in her mother’s absence, she’s forced to make difficult decisions. ★★★★

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Patch of Blue, the London-based theatre company behind the award-winning production We Live by the Sea (seen at Adelaide Fringe in 2017), returns to RCC with Cassie and the Lights, a show devised using interviews with children in care and drawing on real-life experiences in its examination of the notion of family. At its core is a recognition of teenagers’ powers of resilience and inner strength in the face of challenging life circumstances.

Cassie, age 17, has a talent for animation and is working towards pursuing her passion at university. She loves her two little sisters and is already shouldering the responsibility for much of their care when one day she finds herself in charge of the household. It’s a responsibility she’s sure she can manage, but the social services think otherwise.

Live music, sounds, recorded voices and projections accompany the action on stage. Throughout the show, the performers use a simple selection of props (old suitcases, toys, letters) as they tell us how they’ve ended up in a strange house in a part of town very different from where they’ve come from.

Under the coloured lights of the local bowling alley — the last place they saw their mother — the girls compose letters to their absent parent and dream of what life will be like when she returns.

All three performers inhabit their characters with ease and exuberance and give hilariously convincing portrayals of the children. Teenage Cassie (Alex Brain) is consumed by the pressure of protecting her siblings while hiding the truth about their mother’s shortcomings. Eleven-year-old Tin (Michaela Murphy) looks forward to the school dance and knows more about stars than “almost anyone”. The baby of the family is eight-year-old Kit (Emily McGlynn), a spontaneous dancer and biscuit lover who never goes anywhere without her green woollen frog beanie.

Like life, there are laughs as well as painful moments. When the girls are placed with foster carers Mark and Barbara they enter an upmarket world of Waitrose shopping trips, Netflix and exotic meals (couscous and artichoke hearts were never on the menu at home). What will happen, though, if the temporary housing arrangements are made permanent?

Writer and director Alex Howarth has created yet another absorbing work that explores challenging childhood events from the point of view of the child. Times may be tough for Cassie, Tin and Kit, but their strong bond holds the promise of a brighter future. Bring tissues.

Cassie and the Lights is showing at Little Theatre at RCC until March 15.

 See more InDaily Fringe and Festival stories and reviews here. 

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