Review: dirty butterfly
Image: The Bread & Roses Theatre
Rachel Clarke - Amelia
Rebecca Pryle - Jo
Andy Umerah - Jason
Amelia and Jason are drawn into the dark and compelling world of their mutual neighbour Jo who is the victim of nightly domestic violence.
As Jason is increasingly addicted to eaves-dropping on Jo's abuse, Amelia's frustration with Jo's predicament develops.
A play concerned with voyeurism, power and guilt.
If you're looking for an easy-to-understand play with a clear, obvious plot, and where characters talk in whole sentences that have explicit meaning, then this might not be the play for you.
Equally, it might be that you find something very powerful in this drama, written by debbie tucker green, that will override the lack of clarity in both the plot and the dialogue, to bring you closer to understanding something outside the scope of your everyday experience - and that, in many ways, is what good drama is all about.
dirty butterfly presents something of a conundrum because the play is both immensely frustrating as well as almost totally gripping, bordering on the hypnotic.
The problem (if that's the appropriate way to describe it) lies in the way debbie tucker green writes.
Repetition figures largely in the characters' comments and outbursts, and they rarely say things in a way that might be described as 'normal conversation' (whatever that actually is).
Poetry underlies the dialogue with alliteration surfacing along the way too.
That all means that we have to work hard to decode the spoken words to discern just what is happening and why.
The play presents us with three characters, Amelia (Rachel Clarke), Jo (Rebecca Pryle) and Jason (Andy Umerah).
They each have their own platform which represents a different house, at least on the face of it.
The reason I'm not sure if that is the correct interpretation is because I wondered at several points in the play whether the characters are not so much individual and real, but rather voices living in the head of just one of them.
And the more I think about it, the more that still seems feasible, even if it's only part of the complexity the writing presents or suggests.
Still, the more obvious implication is that these three live next door to each other and can hear what's going on in the adjacent house.
And what is perfectly clear is that Jo is the victim of repetitive violence at the hands of her husband.
On one side of the adjoining walls, the rather creepy Jason listens in addictively to the abusive activities taking place in his neighbour's bedroom, while Amelia on the other side resorts to sleeping downstairs in an attempt to get away from the excruciatingly disturbing noise next door.
Though the characters communicate with each other, they skirt around the issue, never naming it directly and seem powerless to stop what is happening to Jo - none of them, including the victim herself, does anything to stop the abuse.
Clearly, if this isn't an easy play for an audience to follow, it must likewise be an incredibly tricky one for a creative team to pull-off, given that the dialogue is often disjointed and somewhat intangible, thus lacking recognisable cues for appropriate delivery.
But director Tessa Hart has certainly got under this drama's skin, and her compelling vision draws-out formidable, highly watchable performances from a fine cast.
Though the synopsis describes the play as being about voyeurism, guilt and power, it covers a whole lot more than that.
Among other things, it asks us to consider just what our responsibilities are to other human beings, and how far we're prepared to go to ignore suffering rather than take a stand to end it.
Occasionally impenetrable and always demanding, this is nonetheless a moving and unnerving piece, written more like a song or poem than a plot-driven play, and relying heavily on mood and impressions to paint its bleak and disturbing picture.
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