EFR - Reviews of Butterfly in Shades of Blue

Butterfly in Shades of Blue

Fri 1st – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Xavier Greenwood

at 02:26 on 4th Aug 2014

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‘Butterfly in Shades of Blue’ is a romantic comedy charting the ups and downs of a relationship over the course of seventeen years. Intriguingly titled and with the promise to deliver a unique take on the archetypal romantic comedy – whose tropes are as old as time itself – a tendency to overemphasise nuances (perhaps out of fear that they might go unnoticed) means that the play falls prey to the boy-meets-girl clichés which it strives to avoid. Nevertheless, it succeeds on many other fronts.

The play is tightly directed, with the sparse static set used to full effect. A single table in multiple surroundings acts as the constant facilitator for both chance and intended meetings between Vicky (Ceri Bostock) and Stephen (Iago McGuire), whilst the resetting is subtly incorporated into the confines of the play. This is coupled with a sumptuous but unobtrusive jazz soundtrack, which results in a simple, but smoothly polished, production.

It was not for any fault in the acting that the chemistry between Vicky and Stephen was found wanting, but due to the disparity between the development of the two characters within the play. Vicky is most definitely a butterfly in shades of blue, self-assertive but vulnerable, on first glance two-dimensional but on further probing full of depth, and performed with tremendous poise and panache. That being said, even her character suffered from an occasional lack of nuance – the subtlety of leitmotifs such as the butterfly dress which she wears in the opening scene and the different shades of blue which she wears in the last are compromised by her declaration: “I am a butterfly in shades of blue”.

Stephen’s role, by contrast, seems primarily to be to expose Vicky’s emotional fragility, and he is never really developed in his own right – attempts to add idiosyncrasy, such as the sellotaped over-sized glasses which adorn his face in the opening scene, are just a little too obvious to evoke nuances in his character. Arguably, the fact that he is slightly two-dimensional is dictated by the plot insofar as it legitimises Vicky’s increasing frustration at his actions; however, it has the unintended result of detracting from both Stephen’s likeability and the credibility of his relationship with Vicky. Stephen’s hollowness, coupled with Vicky’s earnestness meant that at times it felt as if it might be better if their relationship didn’t succeed.

Though the play, for all its efforts, lacks the levels of sophistication required to raise it above the level of other conventional romcoms, it is an enjoyable watch, directed and performance with lucidity.

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Ellie Taylor

at 02:54 on 4th Aug 2014

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Ed Penny and Alan Wilcox bring us a classic story of love and life. Actors Ceri Bostock and Iago McGuire play Vicky and Stephen, and enact for us a window of their lives spanning a 17 year period. We are first introduced to the characters at the age of 15: it is easy to warm to geeky, uptight Stephen because he also seems so open and naive, while Vicky’s headstrong and cynical nature is at once endearing and comical.

During the first scene, the audience were rooting for the pair’s inevitable union. What was perhaps unnecessary in this first scene was Vicky’s blue dress covered in butterflies: as much as a motif should not be too subtle as to be completely missed, there is such a thing as over-symbolic.

As their relationship progresses and changes, I feel the likeability of Stephen plummets dramatically. This is not to the detriment of McGuire’s acting, which was equally as brilliant as Bostock’s, but nonetheless the naive boy grows into a smug, self-centered man who is difficult to like. It was disheartening to see how Vicky’s bold personality seemed slightly dimmed in the third scene by the cruel treatment she continually seemed to have received from her now husband Stephen.

Of course, liking the characters is not essential to liking the play in general, and it did not lower my opinion of the play for the most part. However, in the final scene I could not help feeling slightly let down by Vicky, who was much too lenient towards Stephen for his wrongdoings. One of the best things about the play is that it does not represent romance as a fairy tale but in a more gritty and realistic way, and in light of this the hopeful ending seems to me overly romantic.

The couple have a distinctive chemistry on stage whether they are fighting or flirting. The fact that they do not need an elaborate set, relying on the same table and chair set throughout, shows the prowess with which the actors command the stage. Cleverly, the scene changes are filled with a bartender cleaning up the table, which gives the actors time to change as well as lending authenticity to the play in general.

Although, my overriding feeling at the end of the play was an anger at Stephen, it is not necessarily a negative thing that the play was able to provoke such a strong reaction. Furthermore, this feeling did not hinder me from enjoying the performance and appreciating the novelty of seeing 17 years of a relationship progress in front of our eyes, as well as wonder what would happen next for both characters.

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