Theatre review: Confessions of a Butterfly at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre

18:19 20 September 2012

Jonathan Salt in Confessions of a Butterfly at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre. Photo by Ciaran Cunningham

Jonathan Salt in Confessions of a Butterfly at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre. Photo by Ciaran Cunningham

Archant

One-man play about the life of Polish writer and paediatrician Janusz Korczak

»Alone on the stage for the best part of two hours, Jonathan Salt outlines the life and philosophy of the Polish writer and paediatrician, Janusz Korczak.

The action spans the final days of his life and of the lives of the 200 orphans in his care. “You know that all this has happened”, he says – very true: but how much have we human beings learned from this knowledge?

As well as giving a thoughtful performance, Jonathan Salt has also researched and written the script. Perhaps, in consequence, he has become so close to his subject that he has ceased to see the wood for the trees, resulting in a production that is often more of a lecture – if an interesting and moving one – than a drama.

By sacrificing some of the wealth of information at his disposal, he could have left himself space for a deeper exploration of the character of this extraordinary man and a more convincing portrayal of his relationships with children.

Janusz Korczak, an early campaigner for the rights of the child, was already famous when the orphanage he ran was moved into the Warsaw ghetto. He was therefore offered opportunities to escape, which he refused, preferring to share the fate of the children.

Jonathan Salt represents him as an intellectual and innovative man who is at the same time almost childlike in character. As the play ends, he leads the children, dressed neatly in their best clothes and each carrying a favourite book or toy, to the transport which is to take them to Treblinka extermination camp.

The direction (Sam Conway) is straightforward and workmanlike. The set, in sympathy with Korczak’s views on rehabilitation, was constructed by inmates of HMP Littlehay and is suitably bleak and shabby, though perhaps lacking the inevitable squalor. This is a play, staged in one of the most pleasant and innovative of the newer pub theatres, which is worth an evening of anyone’s time and thought.

* Confessions of a Butterfly is at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Gaisford Street, NW5 1AP, until September 29. Box office: 08444 77 1000.

Latest Stories

29 minutes ago
I'm not sure what he's going for here but I don't think it's worked (Picture via Gumtree)

In just a pair of shorts lying draped across his beloved Casio keyboard, this south London Gumtree seller is taking an unorthodox approach to shifting his instrument.

Read more
08:20
Police have released CCTV of the man they believe is a witness to an alleged rape in February (Picture: Metropolitan Police)

Police want to trace a Good Samaritan they believe helped a rape victim in Homerton and have released CCTV in a bid to find him.

Read more
Yesterday, 18:35
Great Britain's Jenny Jones with her bronze medal won in the Sochi Winter Olympics (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

Snowboarder Jenny Jones has issued a desperate plea for help after her laptop containing all of her photographs of her Olympic success was stolen from her car.

Read more

Top Stories

Promotions

Renault Zoe

The Renault ZOE follows on from the introduction of the electric Fluence ZE and Twizy, but unlike the former, the Zoe was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

Always wanted to create your own beer? Perfect Pint are giving you the chance.

When no simple way to find Real Ale was at hand, 4 Ale enthusiasts got together to allow anyone with a smart phone to find Real Ale no matter where they happened to be, this was the birth of the Perfect Pint app.

The Week subscription offer

London24 have partnered up with The Week magazine to offer you a complimentary issue – delivered free to your door.

Quizzes

How much do you really know about QPR legends like Les Ferdinand? Picture: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

Test your knowledge of QPR’s greatest players with our fantastic legends quiz.

Read more
How much do you know about films in London? (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Do you know your Lock Stock from your Long Good Friday, Sliding Doors from Shakespeare in Love?

Read more
How much about this great city do you really know? Take our true Londoner quiz and find out (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Do you know your apples from your pears? Take our Cockney quiz and see how much of a Londoner you really are.

Read more
Guess the manager quiz. Here's a hint, it's not these four.

The managerial merry-go-round spins quickly these days so do you think you’ve got the knowledge to recognise the faces of all these football bosses?

Read more
A normal day at London Liverpool Street station

This quiz is for people who think they know the Tube and rail inside out.

Read more