Omnibus Theatre and Dorty Mooth Theatre jointly present this play supported by the Synergy Theatre Project. The Synergy Theatre Project works with prisoners, ex-prisoners, and young people at risk of offending with a belief that theatre can be transformative and challenges the perceptions of both prisoners and society. The writer and performer Ric Renson has benefitted from this project and has previously performed in The Invitation at the Secret Theatre, and Blackout for the Synergy Project. This time Renton has turned his hand to writing this, his first play.
Nothing in a Butterfly is an auto-biographical play about Renton’s own life, set in Tyneside. Renton plays himself in this hard-hitting play, leading the audience along the path of his life beginning with him almost jumping to his death from a balcony on the 48th floor, and we then join him in looking over his shoulder, to the point when his problems began in his youth.
Renton’s early years were remembered as unhappy years with his older brother Joe and his father, abusing him. This abuse led him to react with violence during his teenage years, taking and selling drugs and inevitably eventually arrested, charged, sentenced to a custodial sentence and taken to HMP Durham to serve his prison sentence. HMP Durham is a category A prison, with one of the worse records for prisoner deaths in the country, and inmates face a daily battle of whether to become a predator or prey, therefore continuing the cycle of violence.
It is to Renson’s credit and with the help of the Synergy Project, that he has been able to write this play, to re-count his story and to perform this himself, which cannot have been an easy thing to do.
Looking at the artistic elements of the play, Renton puts his all into playing his role, this reflection of himself must sometimes be hard to see, but he manages it with an energy that is infectious and the rest of the cast support him with just the same commitment. Marieme Diouf, Michael Jinks and Olivia Onyehara are the supportive cast, who play multiple characters ranging from a school councillor, friends, girlfriends, Dubai property buyers, etc, but it is the character Michael, who helps to support Renson to move on and to re-shape his life.
The play is fast moving, and I sometimes found it difficult to follow some aspects due to the multiple characters and its fast pace. It could benefit from a slightly slower delivery. Its hard-hitting narrative is helped by Chris White’s directing decision to make the play very physical, the movement skills have been honed by Movement Director, Jess Tucker Boyd. This is a play that needed to be demonstrative, and this certainly makes sure that the viewer leaves the theatre having felt the full impact of the storyline.
As a first play this show packed a punch, and I certainly left the theatre mulling over what I had seen. There are certain aspects of the presentation that would benefit from tidying up, but it is brave and honest, and Renton’s honesty is like a breath of fresh air.
Nothing in a Butterfly is currently showing at the Omnibus Theatre until the 2nd April 2022. To book tickets go to – https://www.omnibus-clapham.org/nothing-in-a-butterfly-2022/
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 30th March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★