All the Little Lights, the human stories behind the headlines…

An Interview with Angharad Jones and Laura Ford, Joint Artistic Directors of Fifth Word written by Jo McLeish.

This Fifth Word production in association with Nottingham Playhouse recently premiered in Nottingham.

“All the Little Lights” is an exploration into the world of child sexual exploitation told through the eyes of three young girls delving into the human stories behind the headlines. It’s about three young girls struggling to find their place in the world; it’s about securing friendships and finding an alternative family, as much as it is about the horrendous crimes they have been victim of. To sum it up it explores the impact of these crimes, but ultimately it’s about survival.

We actually commissioned Nottingham- based writer, Jane Upton, well over a year ago to write this piece, after the high profile scandals in Rochdale and Rotherham hit the press. This is our second collaboration with Jane having previously produced her first play ‘Bones’ as a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse that embarked on a sell out run at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and a UK national tour in 2012

When we first talked to Jane about this idea we were all particularly interested in the case of a young girl who was dubbed ‘The Honey Monster’ by the press. She was responsible for co-ercing other young girls into being exploited for sex. She started out as a victim but was then seen as a perpetrator. But society doesn’t hear about this, the press talk about the ‘men’ involved in these scandals and we wanted a different take for “All the Little Lights”, we wanted to show the girls stories as seen through their own eyes. We are pleased to have been working with research provided by charity Safe & Sound in Derby. This research has informed the piece itself and has been used in rehearsals to help the actors get under the skin of the young people depicted in the play.

One of the things we have found really poignant is that the level of sympathy that society shows young girls who have found themselves the victim of child sexual exploitation. This can often be dependent on how they look or their social background. Teenage girls can often be stereotyped as ‘trouble’ but we need to look deeper.

We want the audience to think, to ponder, and remember just how easy it is for young girls to slip through the net, go under the radar… To question whose responsibility it is to care and be worried? How we can all be complicit in turning a blind eye.

Fifth Word is not necessarily an issued- based theatre company, but we are attracted to hard hitting, real life events. We like to work with light and shade, creating emotionally engaged work that’s rooted in the truth. For us the most important way to engage with future generations of theatre-goers is to tell stories that often go unheard.

All the Little Lights strikes a real balance between grace, humour and its dark subject matter that makes for a wonderful cocktail for us to stage. If nothing else we want the audience to come away having challenged their own perceptions.

Angharad Jones
Laura Ford
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