Home » Reviews » Cassie and the Lights by Alex Howarth

Cassie and the Lights by Alex Howarth

Cassie and the Lights is a most unusual yet effective piece of theatre, first seen at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2022. The subtitle could be ‘Can Kids be Parents’ as Alex Howarth’s play is about a teenager, Cassie – Alex Brain, whose mother disappears and who ends up caring for her two much younger siblings, Tin – Helen Chong, and Kit – Emily McGlynn. Is she the right/best person to be their ‘parent’ or should she let foster parents adopt her sisters and create a new family?

Emily McGlynn (Kit), Alex Brain (Cassie), Helen Chong (Tin) - credit Claire Bilyard.
Emily McGlynn (Kit), Alex Brain (Cassie), Helen Chong (Tin) – credit Claire Bilyard.

Howarth has based his play on real-life events and interviews with children in care, celebrating the resilience of children. According to production information, it is “a tender and playful examination of what makes a family and what holds it together“. But what surprised me was how well all the various ‘Social Services’ agencies who try to help come out of it, showing both empathy and common sense. The welfare of the children seems always at the forefront, even if the the children do not have the maturity to see it.

The story is told from the point of view of the three children, older actors being asked to portray them which, to be frank, they do very well: we quickly forget that they are actors! Helen Chong has a light touch which, together with terrific energy, makes the role of Tin very convincing and always watchable. As Kit, Emily McGlynn knows how to get the audience to sympathise not only with her, but with all children in her position. In the second half of the play, the scene in which she devours an ice cream is not only very funny, it is also quite moving.

Cassie, the 17(?) year old, looking forward to going to university when the story begins, is very believably acted by Alex Brain. She is not afraid to wring the emotions, but none of the three ever makes the mistake of making the piece larger than life. It is all very believable, unfortunately.

The visually pleasing and easy-to-use set design, consisting of painted suitcases and trunks, is by Ruth Badila, effective lighting is by Will Monks and Rachel Sampley and the apt music and soundscape, which are never obtrusive, are by Imogen and Ellie Mason, one of whom also plays live on stage.

Perhaps Alex Howarth, as playwright, was not the person to direct it, as occasionally one feels that he tries too hard to press home his message. An example is Cassie’s monologue near the end that just reiterates what we already know – the piece would have a stronger emotional impact if it did not end on an anti-climax. But, this slight caveat aside, Cassie and the Lights is a piece of theatre that needs to be seen, especially when it is acted as well as it is here. Strongly recommended.

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Can kids be parents? When Cassie’s mother disappears, the teenager wants to care for her sisters on her own. Is she the right person to be a parent now, or should she let foster parents adopt her sisters and create a new family?

Based on real-life events and interviews with children in care this play starring Alex Brain, Helen Chong and Emily McGlynn celebrates the resilience of teenagers and features the voices of Bethany Antonia (House of the Dragon), John Thomson (Men Behaving Badly), Louisa Harland (Derry Girls), Wendi Peters (Coronation Street) and Oli Higginson (The Last Five Years, Bridgerton).

Cassie and the Lights is a tender and playful examination of what makes a family and what holds it together.

PATCH OF BLUE AND 3 HEARTS CANVAS IN ASSOCIATION WITH SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE AND VERSE UNBOUND PRESENT
CASSIE AND THE LIGHTS
BY ALEX HOWARTH
3 – 20 APR 2024
https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

Related News & Reviews Past & Present

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top