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Nothing in a Butterfly at Omnibus Theatre | Review

Actor/playwright Ric Renton’s autobiographical debut play, Nothing in a Butterfly, is an economical piece of writing that punches hard in depicting the hellish world of drug addiction, degradation and endless encounters with a violent self. As a play crafted from Renton’s own lived experience – with Renton playing himself – it wastes no time in exposing the tortured mind of a substance abuser, trapped by compulsions that can only lead to multiple arrests, imprisonment and death.

Nothing in a Butterfly. Marième Diouf, Ric Renton and Michael Jinks. Photo - Joss Ryder
Nothing in a Butterfly. Marième Diouf, Ric Renton and Michael Jinks. Photo – Joss Ryder.

It is a well-worn tale, one that doesn’t necessarily introduce new material about the world of addiction and its predictable outcome, but what does lift Nothing in a Butterfly to fresh perspectives is its use of classical Greek theatre to keep the audience inside the drug-addled mind of Renton, its protagonist.

Realising the potential of background storytelling, Director Chris White and Movement Director Jess Tucker Boyd put the concept of the ancient Greek chorus to inventive use, aided by a complement of three superb actors, Marième Diouf, Michael Jinks and Olivia Onyehara.

Acting as a unified three, they, taunt, chant, threaten and accuse Renton with erratic moves foretelling the danger that awaits him. In moments when Renton joins the chorus of three, they form a quartet bound together in hopeless despair and – later on when he glimpses a way out of his dilemma – moments of elation and hope. Without revealing how Renton is able to put his eventual prison sentence to good use, it suffices to say he is one of the lucky ones.

Also put to good use is the thrust setting at Omnibus Theatre with its versatile seating positioned on three sides of the stage. This more intimate arrangement helps connect the audience to the actors – creating a near immersive experience – while offering a more dramatic use of lighting (Marty Langthorne) and sound (Sarah Weltman) to increase the tension and violence ever-present in the play.

The piece benefits from the support of Synergy Theatre Project which works to rehabilitate prisoners, ex-prisoners and young people at risk of offending through theatre and related activities, while addressing the wider issues surrounding the criminal justice system.

Nothing in a Butterfly is a demanding, hungry play with a void unfilled, a rollercoaster ride unable to stop – in short, the life of a drug addict poised for death. It is an unmissable experience. See it now.

4 stars

Review by Loretta Monaco

The debut play from writer and actor Ric Renton, is based on his turbulent life story, his battles with drugs and violence, and his time in prison.

Nothing in a Butterfly, directed by Chris White and developed by Synergy Theatre Project, also stars Renton, alongside Marième Diouf, Michael Jinks and Olivia Onyehara. The production runs from 29 March – 2 April at Omnibus Theatre following a performance at HMP Thameside.

Dorty Mooth Theatre and Omnibus Theatre present the World Premiere of
By Ric Renton
Director: Chris White; Dramaturg: Neil Grutchfield; Lighting Designer: Marty Langthorne;
Movement Director: Jess Tucker Boyd
HMP Thameside
March, date TBC
Omnibus Theatre
Tuesday 29 March – Saturday 2 April 2022

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