Saturday, 4 October 2014

theatre review: dirty butterfly

it's that time of year when the young vic's clare studio plays host to a handful of productions from award-winning young directors. first up is the genesis future directors award, which this year goes to tinuke craig. craig's chosen play is debbie tucker green's dirty butterfly, a short, brutal but poetic look at domestic abuse. jo (seline hizli) is almost constantly beaten up by her husband. next door her stuttering neighbour jason (anthony welsh) listens through the wall of his bedroom, imagining himself her knight in shining armour and whispering his support to jo when her husband's out, but not actually doing anything. jo's screams are also audible in jason's sister's room, but amelia (estella daniels) can't bear to listen to them. she sleeps downstairs on the sofa instead, ignoring what she knows is going on next door.

two thirds of dirty butterfly is almost a poem split between the three actors, as jason and jo relive the particularly brutal morning she woke up to, while amelia's frustration at the pain neither of them does anything to stop, has turned into anger towards them both. but the final 20 minutes see a change of tone as, in a more naturalistic dialogue, amelia is confronted by the bloody reality when jo visits her at the cafe where she works as a cleaner.

tucker green has never been one for easy answers and despite amelia's apparent callousness she never comes across as entirely unsympathetic, a feeling that she's utterly exhausted by the situation always behind her attempts to dismiss jo. she's also a playwright with a very distinct way of playing with words, which here not only creates atmosphere but also lends moments of humour to a bleak subject.

the mdf-covered walls of the clare have never made it the most atmospheric of venues, but hyemi shin's design extends this to a clinical look for the whole set, which creates some stark imagery in the closing scene. craig gets strong performances out of the three actors - hizli is at times heartbreaking - and some well-chosen musical interludes add to a powerful effect in this typically short and sharp tucker green piece.

dirty butterfly by debbie tucker green is booking until the 11th of october at the young vic's clare.

running time: 1 hour straight through.

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