The Bread & Roses Theatre 27 April – 13 May. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Bread & Roses’ revival of Dirty Butterfly is an intense and powerful production that holds no punches.
Neighbours Jo, Amelia and Jason are all suffering because of Jo’s abusive partner. Through their thin bedroom walls, Jason and Amelia can hear everything. Amelia copes by withdrawing to her sofa, while Jason has become steadily addicted to listening to the drama unfolding on the other side of the wall.
Debbie Tucker Green’s bleak but lyrical writing is delivered with conviction and style by the cast, and the interweaving and overlapping conversations are timed perfectly. Under Tessa Hart’s assured direction, Andy Umerah’s portrayal of Jason’s guilt about his obsession with Jo as childlike confusion – imagining how he could recue her – with glimpses of simmering violence is very convincing. Rebecca Pryle’s Jo is finely nuanced, scared and hopeless, but cruelly enjoying her position of power with Jason. Rachel Clarke is wonderful as Amelia – hardly ever still and utterly convincing in her frustration and guilt about trying to survive by not engaging with Jo; and then becoming a whole new carefree person on removing herself mentally and physically from the flat for her cleaning job.
Staged in the round, the lighting and set design – three separate stage blocks separated by moveable perspex panels- enhance the voyeuristic atmosphere of the production. Watching Jason watch Jo through his screen evokes a seedy peepshow, and the uncomfortable nature of the story can make you feel a little unclean at times. There is no happy ending, and no resolution to the characters’ problems, instead you leave convinced that the cycle of abuse and guilt will never end.
Dirty Butterfly is a brilliant portrayal of the impact of domestic violence. Bread & Roses Theatre Company has done it again, a fantastic production that is wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking. Well worth a look.