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Theatre review: Ramesh Meyyappan's Butterfly channels both beauty and pain

Published on Jul 18, 2014 2:08 PM

The story of Madame Butterfly has been the subject of many an adaptation - and subversion. Composer Giacomo Puccini would transform the original short story (circa 1898) into his lush opera and, decades later, American playwright David Henry Hwang would interrogate themes of sexuality and gender identity with his play M. Butterfly.

Singapore-born, Scotland-based theatre artist Ramesh Meyyappan has distilled the tragic story of Butterfly into an intimate showcase of visual theatre that is equal parts gorgeous and gutting.

It is the final instalment of this year's Studios season at the Esplanade, and staged at its Theatre Studio. This is not the story of a submissive woman spurned, but an exploration of womanhood and the trauma of sexual violence.

Gone are the naval officer Pinkerton, the Japanese prince Yamadori and the titular geisha Cho-Cho-San. In their place, there is a relationship triangle of sorts involving Butterfly, a kite-maker (Ashley Smith), Nabokov (named for the Russian novelist, who was an amateur lepidopterist, one who studies moths and butterflies), a butterfly catcher (Meyyappan), and an unnamed customer at the kite shop (Martin McCormick). As they flit through stages of love, pain and mourning, a delicately-realised fantasy world emerges from the ashes of reality.

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