Edinburgh Festival: Ramesh Meyyappan’s ‘Butterfly’


Ramesh Meyyappan’s Butterfly is inspired by a combination of John Luther Long’s short story Madame Butterfly and Nabokov’s novel Lolita, evoking the elegiac quality of both works. Review by Colin Hambrook


Combining movement, music and handmade puppets there is a lyricism to this production’s effortless flow of dance, mime, handcrafted puppets (by Gavin Glover) and shadow puppetry.

Exploring love, jealousy, possession and fear, the haunting narrative follows the descent into despair of female kite-maker Butterfly (Nicola Daley), caught between two men – the lepidopterist Nabakov (Meyyappan) who sweeps her off her feet and into the world of his own passion to possess flight – and an obsessive admirer (Chris Alexander) who is the catalyst for the unfolding tragedy.

Informed by his deafness, the visioning process for the work is apparent; like much of Meyyappan’s work, it is dialogue-free, except for a few gasps from Butterfly during the early stages of the story, enthralled by love’s innocence.

A deceptively simple set is used cleverly: a lepidopterist’s desk, and back panels with skeletal kite-frames displayed on one side and an abundance of specimen jars filled with fluttering insects on the other, transform the stage elegantly from a kite shop to the scientists home and workshop.

The three dancers/ actors/ puppeteers take the audience on an emotional roller coaster; their seamless syncopation holds and transfixes as we are driven through a story that moves from romance to violence, steadily and surely, and without redemption. Alexander’s captivating skill as a puppeteer comes to the fore during the second half as he brings to life a new born baby moving ominously into infanthood.

Butterfly is a beautiful production that is sure to entertain. As one of the 30 pieces selected by the British Council for their Edinburgh showcase, Meyyapan and the multidisciplinary performance Butterfly is sure to be taken up to travel to distant parts of the globe to represent some of the best of UK theatre.

Butterfly is on at Greenside, Edinburgh until 29 August. Please click here for more details