Wales Arts Review talks to the creative forces behind a new theatrical show exploring themes of domestic abuse.
Bethan Morgan – Writer/Director
I’ve been wanting to create a piece of theatre that tackles the issue of domestic abuse for a number of years now. I feel it is a subject that still isn’t discussed openly, a subject that for many remains ‘taboo’ and yet in the UK, police receive one domestic violence call every thirty seconds and two women are killed every week by a current or former partner.
In Wales we now have a law that is helping us recognise that coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse, that some abuse may not necessarily be physically violent but is still controlling and dangerous.
When I began my R&D for the piece at the beginning of 2015, I had no idea of what I was going to create and certainly no concept of the effects the project would have on my life. I began by teaming up with Angela Gould at RCT Theatres. We sat in a little room in the Park & Dare theatre in Treorchy and looked at statistics: the monthly reports of domestic violence in RCT. I was shocked. And these were just the reported cases.
RCT Women’s Aid welcomed me into their coffee mornings, their workshops, their refuge. I talked to the women there, I listened to their stories, I wept. But I was also lifted by the amazing level of support the women gave to each other, the understanding, the love. These women were not victims, they were Survivors.
I spoke to people about my project wherever I went and people spoke to me, sharing their thoughts and stories and lending their support. A point that became very clear is that this is an issue that is everywhere, regardless of age, background, religion or race.
I am indebted to all the brave women who shared their experiences to help me with the creation of this piece. There are so many stories from so many women, from all walks of life, in every part of our community, so many Survivors. My difficulty was not being able to tell them all. My hope is that the play will raise awareness of the issue and empower people to speak out about it. There is help and support available.
Natalie Paisey – Actor
It’s a daunting subject: domestic abuse and not only from an audience’s perspective. As an actor approaching such a disturbing issue, all manner of emotions are illicited. Will we do justice to the stories of women brave enough to share their experiences? Will we hit the right emotional tones, showing whole people, able to love and laugh despite their harrowing past? Will we help to break down the stereotypes of who might suffer at the hands of a perpetrator? Will we empower those still living in fear to speak out and give guidance to audience members who might be neighbours, family, friends or work colleagues of someone they suspect is suffering in silence?
Luckily, Bethan Morgan’s sensitively written script addresses all of these concerns. Her characters have been shaped by real women and this is clear in the natural language used. This has supported an organic approach to the piece, where ensemble movement has been integrated with text to create an immersive theatre experience.
We have been challenged throughout in both physical and emotional strength. From watching interviews of survivors recounting their traumatic experiences, meeting survivors in person, to learning ballroom dancing, melting like sugar cubes in water, and dancing on chairs, the cast has come together in a supportive and nurturing way. We have helped each other to process the horror of attacks described in detail, where toddlers have hugged battered mothers in torn, bloodstained clothes, where perpetrators have blamed their wives for spoiling their evenings after reporting another savage beating to the police. We have tried to make sense of senseless barbarity.
Most importantly, Bethan has reminded us that these are stories of survivors. This is a play about women who have lived through hell and live on in hope. They show immense love and optimism towards one another and it is this message of positivity, this affirmation, that brightens the rehearsal room. It should equally give encouragement to audiences to come and watch this timely production.
Statistically, a women suffers physical assault from a partner on average 35 TIMES before reporting it.
35 TIMES tours to:-
Park & Dare Theatre, Treorchy 29 – 30 June www.rct-arts.co.uk
Penarth Pier Pavilion 1 July www.penarthpavilion.co.uk
St Dogmaels Memorial Hall, Pembrokeshire 3 July www.ticketsignite.com
Volcano, Swansea 5 – 7 July www.ticketsignite.com
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff 11 – 15 July www.chapter.org
All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 8010 800