"If he knew I'd seen you, he'd kill me and worse"
What could be worse than being killed? For Joanne, the victim of child sex grooming gang you don't want to imagine but delivered in such a throwaway manner its potency is subtle.
Jane Upton's play, All The Little Lights was inspired by news headlines about the Rochdale child sex abuse ring, not an easy or comfortable topic to broach.
It is delicately handled, the story told through the eyes of Joanne (Lucy Mabbitt), her friend Lisa (Erin Mullen) and young newcomer Amy (Emily Fairn).
Awkwardness between friends
Joanne, with the help of Amy, has prepared a birthday picnic for Lisa but when she arrives there is an awkwardness between them.
Lisa is now living with foster parents, away from the gang and Joanne can't quite hide how she feels abandoned by her friend.
Joanne wears an air of normalcy and it is only throwaway lines and aspects of her behaviour which indicate what she's been through and still endures.
She is grooming Amy for the same fate but for the odd comment about running away, she is either numb to the trauma or brainwashed.
On edge and fearful
Lisa is constantly on edge and fearful, scared of Joanne and the life she might steal her back to.
Amy still has that child-like innocence and it's painful to watch that manipulated.
There are few blatant punches - quiet tales of police dismissing their reports and teachers overlooking disturbing behaviour.
If you've been following these grooming cases, then All The Little Lights doesn't necessarily say anything new but it is nonetheless brittle and tense, threat and danger always close to the surface.
All The Little Lights is 60 minutes and at the Tristan Bates Theatre until August 17.
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