Confessions of a Butterfly
Ojemba Theatre Company
The Key Theatre, Peterborough
The Polish Government has declared 2012 the Year of Janusz Korczak. It’s 70 years since he died. Confessions of a Butterfly at The Key Theatre, Peterborough captures the life of Korczak.
This one-man show concerning the life of Korzcak really is a tour-de-force of a performance by actor, writer and producer Jonathan Salt. Salt has the challenge of portraying Korzcak's fascinating life as well as his personal demons. The result is a fine performance—sensitive and strong in equal measures and producing a three-dimensional character and not the caricature that playing a real life character can often bring.
The high points in the production are the sections with the 'absent children' mimed beautifully by Salt. Indeed Salt seems to come to life when portraying these parts—or perhaps, more suitably, Korzcak comes to life. My only disappointment was that these moments weren't more frequent—or perhaps that they might have been slowed slightly. Certainly Salt could afford to do this and perhaps, as the piece develops (this was the opening night), he will allow the children that meant so much to Korzack to come to life.
The darker sides of the character, including the regression back to painful childhood memories, work well. With a heroic figure such as Korzack, it must have been tempting to signpost the special contribution that he made, especially during the Nazi occupation of Poland. However Jonathan Salt's script reveals a private side to this incredible individual. Korzack becomes human at these points and in some ways this is the most interesting revelation in the performance.
There are moments where the piece seems to act as a biographical read of Korzcak. This of course is needed in a performance of this nature, especially for those wanting to learn. It certainly offers an historical / educational feel.
Plaudits must also go to the young people involved back stage. The set, for example, was built by young offenders from Littlehey Prison and helped to recreate the belief that this really was Korzcak's private room.
I would highly recommend trying to catch this performance; in this modern day obsession of how to look after and educate our children, perhaps this expert from the past can teach us a thing or two.
Confessions of a Butterfly runs at The Lion and the Unicorn in Kentish Town, London from September 10 to 29.
Reviewer: John Johnson