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Thrills & serial complications

Kathryn Kelly: Dust Covered Butterfly


Dust Covered Butterfly Dust Covered Butterfly
photo Morgan Roberts
Band? Check. Dynamic and sexy performers? Check. Serial killers? Check. The Sue Benner Theatre configured backwards and the seating bank covered with painters’ plastic made to look like angel clouds? Check. What more could you ask for? Dust Covered Butterfly is a new devised work by Thomas Hutchins and Michael Whittred which Hutchins describes as sitting in the ‘uncomfortable’ but arresting space between a rock concert and a contemporary performance.

It begins with a backlit male figure behind a sheet of plastic. He slowly emerges, clad only in coloured cotton Y-fronts and a full-length woollen coat. He elegantly descends the dozen stairs of the seating bank of a theatre reclaimed as vertical playing space. He is followed by two lissom she-bop girls and they blast out the first number of the night, “No Lies,” into the three awaiting cabaret mikes. The man then hands his electric guitar to our caustically camp Host who is decked out in three-quarter white-face. He asks us to choose: One, Two or Three? We pick number One, the man.

This triggers a sequence that delicately alludes to the first meeting of a serial killer and his female victim. Across the night, our deliciously mischievous Host warns us candidly about each section before it begins as he vividly describes the metamorphosis of a butterfly.

We learn of the vapid preoccupations of our female victim, The Captive, and her online blog, but also how she was tricked into the van of The Captor by the pleas of his female accomplice, the Bait. We learn of the deep obsessive love of the Bait for The Captor and, probably most deeply and disturbingly, in a final scintillating monologue by the Captor we hear his innermost thoughts and yearnings—the psyche of a deranged killer who cannot control his sexual and emotional impulses—and how they drive him remorselessly.

It is difficult subject matter to explore without being salacious. For me, there were some moments where the show verged towards violent chic, mostly because of the charisma of the male lead Michael Whittred. On the night I saw the show he was band-leader and killer, the women were exclusively victims and side-kicks, with no songs of their own to sing. However, I misunderstood the full weight of the choice we made in the first moments of the show. We got to pick which bodies would fulfil the archetypal roles and so audiences on other nights might have witnessed that last glorious monologue from the mouths of the women performers.

Full kudos should go to young Hahnie Goldfinch for a magnificent set design that reimagined the Benner with an eerie delicacy rare in budget-poor theatre-set-land. My only reservation really was about the sometimes awkward nature of the transitions from the rock concert set-up at the bottom of the set to the stand-and-deliver monologues scattered across the stairs—a small price to pay for a punch-in-the-gut night of adventurous independent theatre in Brisbane.


Dust Covered Butterfly, director Thomas Hutchins, producer Jake Shavikin, performers Bella Anderson, Katy Cotter, Chris Farrell, Michael Whittred, design Hahnie Goldfinch, songs Michael Whittred, text Katy Cotter, Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts, Brisbane, 2-20 June

RealTime issue #128 Aug-Sept 2015 pg. 38

© Kathryn Kelly; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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