top of page

Cassie and the Lights | Southwark Playhouse Borough

Cassie and the Lights illuminates the stage with a moving narrative based on real-life events and interviews with children. On a family bowling trip, Cassie's (Alex Brain) mom disappears after going to buy slushies. Cassie, used to her mom's unpredictable behaviour, tries to reassure her younger sisters, Tin (Helen Chong) and Kit (Emily McGlynn), that she'll be back soon. But this time, she doesn't return. What follows is a 70-minute drama portraying Cassie's unwavering resolve as she steps into the role of a parent for her sisters, amidst their mother's disappearance. To complicate matters, things swiftly spiral out of control, leading them to be placed under the care of two foster parents, Mark and Alice. Created and directed by Alex Howarth, this intimate production unfolds as a play within a play, inviting audiences into the tender yet tumultuous world of these siblings.

While the material might be dark and heavy, it also shimmers with light, humour and lots of love. The play strikes a delicate balance between the seriousness of care-giving and playful banter, with sensitive and nuanced writing littered with popular culture references from Ariana Grande to The Power Rangers, reflecting how children see the world.

The strength of the piece lies in the relationships between the three sisters; touchingly authentic right from the start. However, it is Kit’s complete obliviousness to the reality of their situation that highlights the burden on Cassie, making the emotional scenes so heart-breaking to watch. Brain delivers an outstanding performance as Cassie, navigating the emotional complexities of shouldering the weights of adult responsibilities at such a young age. Alongside Chong and McGlynn, the trio gently guides the audience through the story, offering insights from each child's perspective.

McGlynn shines in her portrayal of impish Kit, always ready with mischievous and unpredictable remarks. Chong, bright-eyed and bubbly as Tin, finds her fascination for science, especially astronomy, mildly side-lined by a growing interest in boys, particularly one in her class. Both Chong and McGlynn are extremely endearing and deliver solid performances, capturing childlike qualities and playful innocence. Brain, phenomenal as Cassie, excellently portrays the struggles of balancing adolescence with the desire for a normal life.

The adult characters, voiced over and symbolically represented by an audience member (in a scene where Cassie makes the case to the audience that she should become her sisters’ legal guardian), serve as a reminder of the challenges faced by children and young people navigating a world designed by and for grown-ups. Through Cassie's impassioned plea to become her sisters' legal guardian, the play confronts the politics of the legal system and the complexities of familial bonds.

The music really shines here. Co-composers Ellie and Imogen Mason's live electronic music, combined with Rachel Sampley's evocative lighting and video design, enhances the pivotal moments. The soundtrack immerses the audience in the highs and lows of the drama, amplifying its impact through various soundscapes and the creative use of loop pedals and vocals by the cast to create harmony. Ruth Badila's set design, comprised of stacks of suitcases, serves as an excellent metaphor and raises poignant questions about home.

This is a beautifully moving piece of theatre that asks the hard questions. At its heart, this show illuminates the passion, resilience, and determination of young people fighting for what they believe in. The play doesn’t criticise the care sector or anyone who works within it, and it is this open space that invites the audience to reflect on how we care for and love others in this ‘scary world’.

Cassie and the Lights plays at the Southwark Playhouse Borough until 20 April. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Claire Bilyard


bottom of page