Dirty Butterfly at the Old Court Theatre

dirty-butterflyDirty Butterfly is a dark and gritty play centering around violence and voyeurism. Two couples are separated by a brick wall, yet are joined by the savage acts that take place on one of its sides.

It is a brave choice for Chelmsford Theatre Workshop, who yet again demonstrate their skill for set design and use of space. Throughout the first half the stage is as divided as the characters themselves: Amelia, lingering in the hallway, desperate to walk away from the events taking place; Jason, glued to the wall day and night, unable to tear himself away from what is happening next door; Jo, a prisoner in her room, barely able to leave her bed let alone her house.

The dialogue shifts back and forth between conversation and inner monologue, with the line between the two often blurred. How much contact is there between the thin wall that separates them?

Caroline Wright gives a stand out performance as Jo, the neighbor who battles with a violent partner, and whose pain is heard day and night by her neighbours, played by Swapna Uddin and James Howes. The cast biographies state this is James’ first time in an all acting role, something that comes as a surprise given his natural stage presence.

After the interval the drama is equally intense, Jo’s frailty facing Amelia’s cold anger head on, with a dark atmosphere building to the play’s final climax.

Director Jacob Burtenshaw states that he was looking for a piece of theatre that was both raw and real, and in Dirty Butterfly he has certainly found that. At times it can feel difficult empathise with certain characters, as one feels one would act completely differently in a similar situation, however for those that have not experienced the themes of the play it can also raise the question of what exactly would you do?

A strong and bold play – to be experienced rather than purely enjoyed – that is a much welcome addition to the Old Court Theatre’s season.

Dirty Butterfly runs until Saturday 12th April. For more information visit chelmsfordtheatreworkshop.wordpress.com. Next at the Old Court Theatre is Blood Brothers, and the group are nominated for a Panic Award for last year’s Happy Savages.