The Edinburgh Fringe is back, and for a whole month the Scottish capital is filled with performers from around the world, showing off their comedic, acting, singing or even stunting chops. We were lucky to receive a few free tickets for some shows – one of them being Cassie and the Lights by London based theatre company Patch of Blue. So, a couple of us travelled over to Edinburgh for what was my first Fringe experience.
Cassie & The Lights is based on a true story and interviews with Care Experienced young people, and tells the story of three sisters – Cassie, Tin and Kit aged sixteen, ten and eight respectively – and their lives and experiences of care after their mum abandons them. With their lives thrown in this new direction, the siblings – as young as they are – struggle to come to terms with the meaning of family, relationships and the care system.
An apt theme present throughout the piece is that of confusion, particularly when it comes to Tin and Kit who at a much younger age than Cassie struggle to comprehend the gravity of the changes in their life. Their age makes for a very simplistic and chaotic view of their situation, their unwavering optimism that their mum will return as well as their wonderment at the smallest of things, paint a realistic picture of the mind of children so young thrust into a situation they can’t understand. This is backed up by the childlike delivery and the emotional fragility – of Kit specifically – when she begins to understand their new reality and how it’s affecting Cassie.
The same is true for Cassie, though to a lesser extent. Significantly more mature than her sisters, she more quickly comes to terms with the realities of their situation and struggles with her responsibilities as an older sibling looking out for the welfare of Tin and Kit. She juggles the role of sister, teenager and mother in a somewhat realistic portrayal of the additional pressures Care Experienced people can face and it clearly takes a toll on her. The feelings of responsibility and powerlessness are key in moving the story forward as the world moves around the three girls.
The piece succeeds in many ways in painting a realistic and believable picture of the effect care experience can have on young people.
Chaos is very much a part of the girls’ story and the watching experience, reflecting the pace of change in their young lives and their speed of growth as we flit between games nights, crises, school dances and more. Many things are touched on, like the difference in wealth between the three sisters and the foster family they stay with, the complexities of the bureaucratic side of the care system they are navigating, and the cataclysmic effect care experience can have on a life in a short time. This provides quite a broad image of care and many of its facets, though also grounds for some minor criticism: the wide scope means that there is little outright criticism or commentary on the subjects it covers.
This lack of commentary is all the more strange given the decision to ask an audience member to give their opinion on a pivotal decision in the middle of the narrative which felt a little out of place. That said, the experience is clearly shown to be difficult and it is easy to empathise with the characters, so though it would be welcome, the lack of commentary does not stop this being a worthwhile watch.
Overall, the piece is solid. It provides a believable and entertaining story of what care experience may be like for some people, with some accurate scenarios and even some little bits of humour. Though it could do with a more streamlined story and some deeper critical focus, ultimately what it gives is more than enough to entertain for an hour or so and to make a good first impression at my first ever Fringe.
If you would like to go see Cassie and the Lights, you can use our code WhoCares for £8 tickets. It can be used online or at the box office.