views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Butterflies Don't Do Maths
The Space
26th March 2014


The ensemble in Le Papillon

Photography © Mihnea Damian.

Simply put, Butterflies Don't Do Maths is about love, specifically exploring whether our capacity to love can be diminished by a trauma, or whether the human desire to love and be loved can win out against the self-preservation mechanism. Both are age-old, strong impulses. Alexandra Roshu uses butterflies as a metaphor, given their dramatic transformation, fragility and beauty, but also because of chaos theory - that stepping on just one small butterfly in the past can change a future into something completely different and unexpected.

The original concept may belong to Roshu, but Butterflies Don't Do Maths has evolved from a one-woman piece into a multidisciplinary show featuring the work of several different artists and performers. There are are certainly some bold ideas apparent in the efforts of the GREEN13 Collective, and it's exciting to see so many people come together. However, many of the ideas feel separately developed and it would feel more rounded as a piece if there was more of a spirit of collaboration evident.

Choreographer Michaela Cisarikova has devised the first half, a standalone dance show titled Le Papillon. Cisarikova and fellow dancers Gemma Pithers, Lucia Schweigert, Sherrel Miller and Marah Wilson emerge one by one, plain in flesh-coloured underwear, moving hesitantly, jerkily and then evolving into something more playful and mature. When the dancers become fully fledged butterflies, they emerge from cocoon-like material, wearing bright red dresses with strips of yellow and orange attached.

Original music from Karim Kamar and Ross Allchurch helps to set the mood, and varies from a modern to more classical sound as the butterflies reach different points in their life cycle. There's also a brief element of poetry, with Malin Smedhagen's words on the fragility of butterflies adding an extra dimension to the piece.

Alexandra Roshu as Andie

Photography © Mihnea Damian.

The dance element is roughly 35 minutes long, and is repetitive in places, as the butterflies die and are reborn. We see a traumatic incident spur the butterflies to push and pull against each other, the ensemble movement breaking apart. The exact detail isn't revealed, this is an introduction to Roshu's tale, a more conceptual version.

The second half has been written and fleshed out by Kitsune Martin, with Roshu instead focussing on the delivery of the story. Over the hour, she takes on the character of Andie, who suffered a brutal crime. The movement in time is signposted by different clothes and by video clips showing the development of a Monarch butterfly, intended to link back to Andie's own life, as she grows up and changes.

Roshu has been inspired in part by The Vagina Monologues, but whilst Eve Hensler's play is meant to be about female empowerment, Andie is less of a feminist and more just a broken woman, blaming the entire male sex for her past suffering, unable to move on. There is no Sliding Doors movement, we see the Andie who is, rather than the Andie who could have been. The impact would perhaps have been more powerful if we could have had that glimpse into that alternate universe. The dialogue isn't as powerful as it could be, but Roshu's eyes are wide, bright and haunted, her expressions conveying Andie's pain even when the words aren't quite up to the job.

There are certainly some interesting elements in Butterflies Don't Do Maths. However the sum of all its parts is less than all its parts, and a more collaborative approach is required from the GREEN13 Collective to move up a notch.

Butterflies Don't Do Maths opened on 25th March and runs until 29th March 2014 at The Space.

Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)

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