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Dark comic look at mental health portrayed in Stratford Circus play

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 January 2017

Jacqueline Phillips as Beatrice

Jacqueline Phillips as Beatrice

Black Robin

Mental health isn’t a conventional topic for comedy – but then Butterfly isn’t exactly a conventional show.

The one-woman play, starring Jacqueline Phillips at Stratford Circus, sees leading character Beatrice awaiting the results of a forced mental health assessment.

Both funny and surreal, it’s not a literal linear narrative about what happens next but an uncovering of pasts forgotten and how things came to be.

“It is to do with the struggles of mental health and being misunderstood and misrepresented,” said Jacqueline.

“It is not a factual piece. It is very much a beautiful journey in that it doesn’t go into specific detail.”

This journey, a darkly comic look at mental health illness through the ages, takes Beatrice back to her own personal youth at a time when she adored the Buzzcocks and Bowie and “was young, carefree – and full of life”.

It then moves to Ancient Greece to a time when warrior queen Boudica reigned.

Several of the characters, including the show’s eponoymous Butterfly, are played by Jacqueline.

Are they imagined or real? “That is very much for the audience [to decide],” she said.

Instead, perceptions of mental health illness and their impact on people is a key theme for each conversation.

“You have to see it in the context of what has gone before,” explained Jacqueline. “Mental health is still misrepresented and people are still judged now for being different.”

Written and directed by playwright and disablity champion Vici Wreford-Sinnott – herself disabled – Butterfly has come about partly as a retort to the cuts in services faced by people during this era of austerity.

Film, TV and theatre stalwart Jacqueline says it “gives a voice” to such individuals but in a “hopefuly and beautifully creative” way.

Following the Stratford Circus run, Butterfly will embark on a national tour.

Butterfly is at Stratford Circus on Tuesday, January 31 and Wednesday, February 1, with performances at 7pm. Tickets from £13 at stratford-circus.com


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