Beautiful Little Fools is only on for two nights at The Cockpit in London’s Marylebone but deserves much more. The concept is that three young women find themselves imprisoned and then effectively brainwashed in Big Brother style to regard all outsiders as a danger and a threat. When a fourth young woman joins them their prejudices and nascent tribal instincts come to the fore.
With nods to TV’s Big Brother and ‘I’m A Celebrity…’ (not to mention Brexit and the Syrian crisis), Beautiful Little Fools differs in that there are no ‘challenges’ set by the producers (at least not until the ultimate challenge is issued at the end). In this version the inmates invent their own games and tortures, turning against each other rather than challenging the system that’s imprisoned them. I’ll say no more because that’s all you need to know. Just see it and let the drama happen in front of you.
It’s performed almost in the round at the Cockpit theatre, Marylebone, a classic studio theatre black-box space which is well used in this production. The pace is extremely well-judged and the events unfold unpredictably, leading to a genuine frisson of tension in the room. The piece makes excellent use of movement and sound. The voice of ‘Big Brother’ is especially effective and the involuntary ‘dance’ of the inmates quite unnerving. It’s gripping, at times funny (as all good theatre should be, in my view), and genuinely captivating throughout.
It’s written by Jemma Burgess who also stars and is the founder of Optic Theatre Company whose production this is. The three others in the cast (Sophia Hannides, Isabel Goldby-Briggs and Jessica Collins – getting the laughs) are all really committed and convincing in their different characters. And at just an hour’s running time it doesn’t outstay its welcome, leaving you wanting more.
I must conclude with a mention of the Cockpit Theatre. As I said earlier, it’s an intimate studio space and I must say again, as I’ve done in previous reviews, that if you’ve confined yourself to the West End spectaculars you really should try intimate venues like this, with close-up performances from talented casts. It really shows what theatre can do like nothing else. Combined with a welcoming bar and foyer with a distinct student union vibe (circa 1978 I should say) this is a really great place to go.