Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Dirty Butterfly

Debbie Tucker Green
Bread and Roses Theatre
Bread and Roses Theatre

Jo (Rebecca Pryle), Jason (Andy Umerah) and Amelia (Rachel Clarke) Credit: Emma Steele
Jo (Rebecca Pryle), Jason (Andy Umerah) Credit: Emma Steele
Amelia (Rachel Clarke) and Jo (Rebecca Pryle) Credit: Emma Steele

Jo (Rebecca Pryle), Jason (Andy Umerah) and Amelia (Rachel Clarke) are neighbours who are not responding well to an incident of domestic abuse in Debbie Tucker Green's bleak, pessimistic play Dirty Butterfly.

Amelia and Jason have heard the violence against their neighbour Jo but are not doing anything to end it. Amelia simply wants it to go away, so she sleeps on the sofa downstairs in order not to hear it. She even justifies her lack of concern by blaming Jo.

Jason claims he would like to intervene but simply listens obsessively at the partition wall. It’s even suggested that he finds it sexually exciting.

Each actor stands on a separate large, raised, black box. Between them on two wire lines hang clear, hard, plastic sheets on which are stuck a number of small imitation butterflies. These sheets act as the partition walls. The audience sits on four sides of the performance space.

The characters speak sometimes in monologue. At other times in the early part of the play, they speak to each other directly as if the partition wasn’t there. It evokes a sense of urban claustrophobia.

Jo tells Jason she is so afraid of her brutal partner that during the night she dare not leave her bed to go to the toilet in case it provokes his rage.

Jason tells Jo he wants to end the violence. She responds by mocking his stutter and baits him by replying to his claim that he missed her with the question, “which part of your anatomy missed me?”

Amelia feels that the violence is causing difficulties to her relationship with Jason. When Jo arrives bleeding to the café where Amelia works, she initially complains about the blood dripping onto the floor and tells her to go away.

We never see or hear any of the violence, only the terrible consequence on Jo and her neighbours. This is less a story about the abuser, whom we never see, than it is about those who stand by while the abuse takes place. By failing to intervene, they make matters worse for everyone including themselves.

This is a strong production of a play that is difficult both in content and language. The dialogue is at times fragmentary and poetic. It is a stylised version of ordinary speech in which the characters interrupt and overlap each other.

The actors give a fine, believable performance that is at times quite disturbing, something that is emphasised by the intense intimacy of the performance space where most audience members could literally stretch out an arm and touch one of the characters.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna