Saturday, 17 April 2021

REVIEW: Buttercup on BBC iPlayer

BBC is presenting 18 original plays as a festival of British Theatre under the banner BBC lights up, partnering with theatres around the country, celebrating creativity and resilience. Buttercup is a one woman show from an idea by Odile Mukete and 20 Stories High and captured in what looks like a stand-up stage in a bar. it is written and performed by Dorcas Sebuyange, a Liverpool based Congolese poet and singer.

The presentation style is a mix of Liverpudlian storytelling, close up reading of her poems in front of a microphone and recreations of the interactions with the women who shaped her life, and she adapts her accent and style for each element. In the story telling she uses the language of the young today in a vibrant energetic and engaging way. In her poetry she is darker quieter and disturbingly powerful in her language and phrasing. In the recreations she combines Congolese language and accents and English in short segments that provide insight into the culture from which she is emerging into modern Britain. Each short scene and switch from style is separated by a camera cut or fade. 

At the heart of the story is a scene from her life in the Congo at seven years old where, as a young girl, she was abused by Uncles and neighbours. In the poetry she alludes to these events and the impact it has had on her life so far with powerful phrases such as warnings to not “be too friendly child” or wondering “was I the cause of it all” or recalling “the devils desires” and “being tampered with”. The impact of the experience gets triggered by her life since as “memories creep in” or “shame cripples”. It is clear that these feelings have been suppressed and not shared with anyone in the family and that until she does, she can’t learn to survive the trauma.

We meet her with her sisters Esther and Hope, the overpowering Auntie Patricia (a “talker”), her college friends Rosie and Carla and with her Mum but is unable to share her memories with them. We hear how she dropped out of university, comes under pressure from friends to get a boyfriend, to “live a little” and ends up in a call centre “not the life I am trying to learn”.

It is simply shot without gimmicks or effects but is powerful due to Dorcas Sebuyange’s strong elegant accomplished chilling performance and we feel listening we are part of the process of survival when she can finally “say it out loud”. It is a modern day Play for Today with contemporary themes and cast, a powerful message of both condemnation of the act against her and celebration of her survival. Insightful and powerful.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Price of Ticket: Free | Seat: Online
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