POSTED: 15 JULY 2010

Dirty Butterfly, by Debbie Tucker Green

B Sharp & Arts Radar & flour sugar tea-Tales | Belvoir Street Theatre, Surry Hills, Sydney | Until 1 August

One often feels a bit like a voyeur during a Downstairs Belvoir production. It’s such an intimate space. If the production, as is often the case, involves high emotion then the proximity of the audience to actors can feel somewhat intrusive.

Add a confronting theme such as domestic violence and it can be quite overpowering in there. In fact, during B Sharps’ latest production, Dirty Butterfly, a pair behind us left part way through. Not an easy or unobtrusive act, and kudos to actors Zoe Houghton and Sara Zwangobani for not batting an eyelid.

Why did the couple leave? Who knows. Maybe there was a physical or personal reason, but their departure did coincide with the particularly shocking tableau of a brutally beaten woman, bleeding profusely from between her legs onto a shiny white floor.

Director Wayne Blair (Jesus Hopped the A Train, Ruben Guthrie) has courageously taken on Debbie Tucker Green’s dark tale of three people existing in an apartment building, separated by walls that don’t muffle a whisper... let alone a beating.

Houghton, Zwangobani and the final of the trio, Dorian Nkono, build the dynamics of this piece well, although the ending felt slightly anticlimactic in the face of the enormous emotional confrontations of the previous 55 minutes. Yes, it’s pretty short, but wisely so.

Tucker Green’s language is frequently lyrical, sometimes vicious and often surprising. A gentle, graceful observation overlaps an outburst of vitriol with startling speed.

Although the notice in the foyer warns of ‘adult themes’, perhaps some adults may find this a bit hard to bear. Personally I found it incredibly effective, moving and thought provoking, and way too important an issue to be sanitised. My suggestion would be to judge for yourself, but be warned that Dirty Butterfly is not a ‘fun’ night at the theatre.

You’re unlikely to forget it, though.

Above: Dorian Nkono and Zoe Houghton. Below: Sara Zwangobani and Dorian Nkono. Image: Danielle Lyon.