Butterfly by Vici Wreford-Sinnott: Arc, Stockton

THERE is a table in the centre of the stage area with a person lying seemingly motionless on top, covered in a sheet, legs poking out the ends. The audience hugs the stage on three sides in a horseshoe shape. A door is in the wall behind the table on the back right. The theatre lights dim leaving bare light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling lighting the scene. Suddenly, the body jumps up saying: “Did you think I was dead?”

A light-hearted start to a complex, often emotional play, investigating mental health and stigma throughout the ages. Vici’s play is an important part in highlighting the issues that society faces and is supported by Arc’s Cultural Shift Programme, a three-year programme of dynamic arts activity involving disabled people at every level.

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Jacqueline Phillips is the amazingly-talented actress that transports us into the world of Beatrice, Butterfly and Boudica. From the start her emotion and delivery draw us into the characters on stage, we moved into the same room, rather than watching from behind a glass window as often seems to happen. Beatrice and the characters actually talk to us, share their memories and even offer us Turkish Delight.

A one-actress play is a challenge, but in Butterfly the character changes are seamless, the audience just needs to keep up (there are no costume changes). It is not a story about Beatrice and her past, it is a story about society, she is simply a tool for looking at history. Butterfly is a challenging play, but a very important one. Full of humour, honesty and insight.

Tracy S Hyman