Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Three girls. Three bedrooms. Three phones. An endless stream of notifications. Butterflies is new writing which navigates a world of revenge porn, tinder bios and wagon wheels. This Vault festival sell-out is an intimate portrait of the challenges of womanhood and identity within Generation Z.
Floss is a vacuous self-obsessed vlogging star, Shannon a dopey teenager at her fit boyfriend’s beck and call, irritating Frankie is stuck in the closet doorway dithering on Tinder. Right? Wrong, its so easy to make snap judgements isn’t it based on a few seconds of viewing? Start over; Floss (Holly Hudson ) is a young women aware of her responsibilities to her susceptible followers who has to show strength to a vicious ex, Shannon (Milly Roberts ) has never been given a role model of a strong women and is not making a bad go of independence and sweet Frankie (Georgia Bishop ) finds the confidence in a real life encounter to make a brave decision. The butterflies of the title refer to the feeling Frankie thinks she ought to have on falling in love but these three are also delicate creatures, who want to bask in warmth and affection but are buffeted by expectations about roles and behaviours.
In this tight and enthralling new play by Natasha Brotherdale Smith, young queer led company Flat 4 Theatre bring this funny, engaging and sad show to Edinburgh fresh from a sell out at the Vault festival. In a tiny but detailed bedroom set the three actors are deftly choreographed to weave in and out of each other as the audience follow 24 hours of each of their lives, intricately woven together in the script. The tension racks up as each must make a tough decision, distracted by what others on Instagram, Facebook and Tinder will think of them. The characters are so engaging you find yourselves cheering on their steps towards independence, laughing out loud with them, but these aren’t fairy stories so don’t expect them all to have the happy endings you wish for.
I had a tiny quibble that the intimate setting, while helping to reinforce the claustrophobia of the women’s narrow focus, does slightly hinder some sight lines. I was also unsure about the degree of swapping clothes and undressing (which may be my age and legacy of my mother’s prudery). If it was to enhance the idea of Floss, Shannon and Frankie being on their own in their bedrooms, and to reinforce the voyeuristic nature of some social media, it did. And if immature members of the audience found it titillating that is their problem, but this is a tricky area to negotiate.
Brotherdale Smith is a playwright to watch and she could afford to give even more depth to the characters we don’t get to see on stage but we get glimpses of in her cracking dialogue. This is a must see show in this new Zoo venue (allow time to negotiate your way from the Infirmary Street entrance). Add it to your Fringe schedule.