Delicate Flowers at Cottingham Methodist Church

[15 March 2017]
Delicate Flowers
Delicate Flowers written and Directed by Mark Rees of Single Story Theatre Company tells the story of Barbara Buttrick, a Hull woman who has rapidly risen to iconic status, through the telling and re-telling of her achievements in women's boxing.

Born in an era when women were expected to play the good housewife, have tea on the table, look pretty for their man, Barbara proved with her determination and fighting spirit, that women should be allowed to box, finally winning the Women's Bantamweight Championship.

Alongside the performances for the schools, the W.I., in shopping centres and community centres, Single Story brought their play to Butterflies. Firstly a show for the Monday Group in East Hull, then to Cottingham and the Methodist Church on Hallgate, where Friday's group were busy celebrating the seventh anniversary of Butterflies Memory Loss Group.

The play began with the recorded voice of Barbara Buttrick played into the church hall.

'I think all this talk about girls not boxing is old fashioned, girls aren't the delicate flowers they used to be.'

It is clear that the Butterflies group are engaging with the story and quite taken by the actress Kat Martin performing in front of them, just feet away. 'Not one person got up to leave,' said the staff later. There are murmurs of recognition and well there might be, there are a number of folk in the audience who knew Barbara, the girl from Hull, back then when she was starting out. The good housewife guide scene gets a smile and a giggle from the women in the audience, more responses are plainly visible from the mention of Hull Fair and being invited into the barker's ring.

There is a bit of a q and a after the show and from the tenure of the questions it becomes obvious that some in the audience hadn't understood that Karen was a character. The layering of narratives isn't the easiest to follow particularly if you are not used to seeing theatre: working out when Karen is actually telling Barbara's story and not that of her character proved a little tricky. Despite this the response and sustained applause proved that the group really did enjoy watching Delicate Flowers.

There were a number of comments from the group afterwards that we were able to pick up on and discuss.

'She was word perfect.'

'She did very well.'

'Telling her own story she was passionate and emotional'

'Inspiring for younger women'

'I used to have tea on the table'

'Good that they are going to different places, so people can see it who don't normally go to theatres.'

'Gets rid of the idea that theatre is just for posh people'

'With persistence you can achieve from any background, you've got to want it.'

'Although I don't agree with boxing, it's remarkable to see. The idea of women standing up for what they believe in too. The Lil Bilocca story brought all that into focus, and this was one just goes to show what Hull women can do. '

'Three words come to mind,' Fighting, courage, success - she's wonderful, plain and simple and direct. Best Butterflies thing for years.'

Final thought comes from a lady with sight loss in the group, who seems to embody that same fighting spirit of not giving up that lies at the heart of the Butterflies ethos, and underpins the play, ' I heard the skipping rope,' she says with a smile, 'And sensed her movement when she was punching.'

[Michelle Dee]
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Supported by Hull UK City of Culture 2017