REVIEW – The Archivist / Instructions for a Butterfly Collector, The Traverse


The second week of The Traverse’s A Play, A Pie & A Pint season is a double-bill of short works by Argentinian playwrights. Both deal with the aftermath of the country’s “Dirty War” in the late 70s and early 80s, a period of state-run violence where thousands of civilians ‘disappeared’.

Both works are linked not only by their setting but by featuring two central female characters searching for lost brothers. In Hector Levy’s The Archivist, Ana (Nalini Chetty) desperately seeks answers from the system, personified by archival clerk Felix (Ian Dunn).

This two-hander is the least gripping of the two pieces, although the moments where the barely-suppressed spark of anger flares up between the two characters are well done, and portrayed convincingly by Chetty and Dunn.

As the shorter of the two plays on the bill, The Archivist really serves as the scene setter for Instructions for a Butterfly Collector, a heartrending and moving monologue by an unnamed woman (Lucianne McEvoy).

Seated in front of a microphone addressing some undisclosed audience, the woman tells the story of her childhood, where the imagined memory of her snatched infant brother’s life provides her a lifeline to cling to during a prolonged period of trauma. The theme of butterfly collecting – a hobby the woman adopts in adulthood – is used to convey the fragility of life; though this is perhaps a little overdone in parts.

However, the piece is elevated by McEvoy’s performance, her voice charged with emotion and pain as she recounts her character’s past, sat facing the centre of the stage in a portrayal which is detached; yet impassioned and tragic by the same turn.

With their warning echoes of the power of corruption and its impact on innocent lives, the two pieces resonate; and together provide a moving and still relevant insight into a dark period of the world’s recent past.

Ticket details are available on the Traverse website. The Archivist and Instructions for a Butterfly Collector run until 26 February.

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