Saturday, 5 March 2011

Dream Life of Butterflies MTC ***1/2

The Dream Life of Butterflies 
By Raimondo Cortese, Melbourne Theatre Company
Sumner Theatre, MTC March 5 to April 2, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert  on March 5, 2011
Stars: *** 1/2

We cannot live our sisters’ lives or control their choices. In Raimondo Cortese’s The Dream Life of Butterflies, people with siblings may recognise the frustration, repressed conflict, misunderstandings, pain, guilt and the willingness to forgive transgressions.

This two-hander is a gentle, naturalistic portrayal of the reconciliation between two very different, middle-aged sisters. Vanessa (Natasha Herbert), after a long, unexplained absence, visits her older sister, Zelda (Margaret Mills).

Cortese’s spare dialogue is littered with pauses. Heather Bolton’s economical direction emphasises the sisters’ discomfort with frequent, awkward silences, highlighting years of unspoken confusion and betrayal. The two rattle around in a vast, empty space, pacing aimlessly or perching on uncomfortable benches.

Their conversation divides in three parts, punctuated by Baroque harpsichord (Anastasia Russell-Head). It reeks of evasion, intentional and unintentional, as they plough through childhood memories until they reach the unsafe ground of Vanessa’s departure.

Herbert captures the recklessness of Vanessa, giving her a louche, restless, weightless quality that reflects her dislocated, gypsy lifestyle, and balancing Vanessa’s strange secretiveness with her brutal honesty. As Zelda, Mills is eerily contained and still, carefully observing her sister and avoiding confrontation for fear of scaring Vanessa into running.

As they sip vodka and become more certain, this tale of sisterly love, betrayal and abandonment unfolds.

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