Duke's Head, Richmond
Opened 1 July, 1991

The Second String company's production of Butley is intended to subsidise this play about self-mutilation with which it's in rep. Jan Ruppe plays her own protagonist Laura, whose emotional downward spiral (a result of misplaced affection for a smooth-talking shit) leads to growing dependency upon scalding and razoring herself as a means of relief. It's a strong, acidic performance which eschews melodrama, deriving fuel from juxtaposition with Jane Milling's flatmate Ruth (a winningly erratic mixture of concern and dizziness).

Ruppe's script is sensitive about the compulsion itself, but weak both in setting up the emotional dependency which leads to it and in manoeuvring her characters towards a half-resolution of dawning understanding via therapy; too often the lines creak at key moments. She hasn't subordinated the issue to the drama, though on this showing she'll soon acquire that skill.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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