Edinburgh Fringe 2014
"Spanning a period of 17 years, Butterfly in Shades of Blue is a romantic comedy-drama which follows Stephen and Vicky when they first meet and then as they fall in and out of love. The play is a bittersweet study of how their relationship changes over the years due to differing aspirations."
Butterfly in Shades of Blue is a romantic two-hander written and produced by Ed Penney and directed by Alan Wilcox. It stars Ceri Bostock as Vicky LeGrange and Iago McGuire as Stephen Harper, following their connected lives over seventeen years, set in four acts in the same night club (and then wine bar) offering us, not only a classic rom-com but also a changing image of two all too human people over time.
The simple setting of a table and chairs becomes the anchor point for the story. Costumes change, fashions change, but some things stay the same. There are some important and well observed details in this ninety-minute play, as the characters become a bit older and wiser.
This is an encounter play. Vicky and Stephen encounter each other, they encounter their hopes and fears, and they encounter love, loss and…well, you can watch the play to find out the rest.
Plays like this do not always meet with critical approval at the often harsh Edinburgh Fringe. The play has a warm heart beating at its centre, runs for longer than most plays up here, and sits firmly in the style that will do very well on tour around the country. But it doesn’t try to hit too hard for its own sake; it tells a good story and tells it well. There’s plenty of wry humour, and some of the narrative confirms rather than shocks or surprises. It’s a full-hearted story, written with an eye for detail, which lends a believability to the characters, played convincingly by Bostock and McGuire. It has a plot line that is engaging because it doesn’t try to be sensational for its own sake. Here we have the human condition – the flows and weaknesses that often lie at the centre of our striving for connection and purpose, offered through a theatre piece laden with comedy dialogue, laced with some intense emotion.
I felt there were one too many side-glances to the audience. The fourth wall is mostly up here, though we are addressed at specific times by the two characters in monologue. It is better for that fourth wall to stay firmly up for the rest of the time. The simple staging is a strength, allowing us to focus entirely on the dialogue; the four acts are transitioned by a wonderfully seen-it-all barman (played by Penney himself) who clears up the mess and wipes the tables in a way that is both funny and ironic.
Occasionally some of the lines felt too delivered and the more the actors can immerse themselves into the content of the play, and to fully let go of that delivery, the better the play will be. As it is, it is a long play that didn’t feel over long and that is down to the strong performances and some crisp writing. Yes, it feels a bit cliched in places, but I don’t believe that is accidental. The play is all the more accessible for offering us familiarity. What is also different here is that Vicky and Stephen are not easy puzzle pieces that fit together. In the end we have to accept what we are, with our flaws, and in our differences. Happy endings may only reveal themselves after a life time.
Each act is an episode in the lives of these two souls, as they encounter and re-encounter each other after five years, changed, and yet still somehow rooted in each other. That’s the charm and cleverness of a piece that is moving and funny – the two vital ingredients for a good romantic comedy. The audience were fully engaged and interest wasn’t lost for second.
This is a story of fears and hopes as they change over time. A gentle romantic story forms its core and it succeeds very well as a study in love and connection. Highly recommended.