Wednesday, July 14, 2010

dirty butterfly

flour sugar tea-Tales & Arts Radar in association with B Sharp presents, dirty butterfly by Debbie Tucker Green in the Downstairs Theatre.

dirty butterfly is a 55 minute, two scene play concerning domestic violence. Written in 2003 by British writer Debbie Tucker Green, her first produced play (Soho Theatre Company), of British-Jamaican decent it introduced a writer with some poetic gifts and a social/political agenda. Sydney has already seen a later play by Ms Green: STONING MARY at the Griffin Theatre in June, 2008.

This play concerns three characters living in different apartments that unfortunately ‘leak’ noise. Amelia (Sara Zwangobani) and Jason (Dorian Nkomo) are neighbours to Jo (Zoe Houghton) and they witness, through hearing, the abusive relationship between Jo and her partner next door. Each of them respond differently, Amelia in a “flight’ state moves to a downstairs couch to sleep, Jason in an ‘enticed’ state puts his ear to the wall to catch the nuances. Jo in a ‘paralysed’ state, remains in the room, in the bed, subjected to abuse. Neither of the witnesses do or feel empowered to intervene, to aid Jo. Can Jo,even, help herself?

The first scene set in a spare, open space of matted flooring with a painted brick wall is written in fragmentary overlapping stream of consciousness speeches by the three characters. Each discoursing about the predicament in a colloquial sounding poetic construction. One is drawn to the language by its poetic-demotic beauty and yet repulsed, made anxious by the hopeless content. Our empathy for the people is discovered in the moments of utterance of beautiful ’music’ in clever developments and shifts, gradually.

The second scene in a clinical white floored, silver metalled, chaired restaurant introduces a real time meeting between the reluctant Amelia and the distressed (perhaps) dying Jo. It is shocking to watch in this relatively realistic world, but gradually, also irritating as no help is sought and we all finish in a state of limbo with no resolution as the lights fade to the beaten and bleeding Jo finishing “This morning ent had nuthin to offer up, y’know? It started off shit – y’know? - and it doesn’t finish yet and I can’t wait for the afternoon to come….I can’t wait….sshh.” Can’t wait for what? The grim future of Jo’s life or the end of it?

Wayne Blair directs his three actors very tightly and well within a simple but effective design, (Set and Costumes by Ms Negroponte). Ms Houghton and Mr Nkono were especially complex and moving. This is a small production where difficult issues are wrapped in a beautiful language technique and clear direction. The complicity of the enduring and witnessing of all types of violence without giving aid is part of our everyday dilemma in lots of different ways. The play demands a response. There is no easy or strict response for me, and like the play, I am in an unresolved state. It is not enjoyable but is, ultimately, in reflection, a resonant one. I am both discomforted and uncomfortable.

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