Little did I know the extent of the journey I was embarking on when I set about creating a show about Domestic Abuse 3 years ago. 35 TIMES has certainly changed my life, and I hope the lives of many others too. In the course of the project I’ve met many amazing and inspiring Women and now find myself working with Welsh Women’s Aid SEEdS (Survivors Empowering and Educating Services) to inform the planning, development and delivery of violence against women policies, planning, campaigns and services.
It’s impossible to lightly dip into the subject of Domestic Abuse and as soon as I started looking at the statistics, I was immersed. 1 in 3 women will experience violence at the hands of a male partner, this is happening all around us. With support from the Arts Council of Wales, a period of Research and Development took me into Women’s Aid coffee mornings, refuges and recovery programmes and I worked with actors to discover ways of giving the stories the women had shared with me the weight and attention they deserved.
Last year I concentrated on writing and directing the show, which is an audience-immersive production set in a coffee morning. The audience sit at tables while the actors move amongst them and share stories and experiences of abuse at close quarters, allowing the audience to be at the heart of the action and engaging them fully in the subject matter. We then encourage them to stay for a drink and a chat afterwards if they’d like to discuss the issues the piece has raised for them.
We ask our audiences for feedback after our shows and following last year’s performances there was an overwhelming response suggesting that the piece should be seen by young people and by professionals who deal with domestic abuse on a daily basis, so this year we’re doing specific performances targeted at these groups. We’re really pleased that the Police have shown such an interest in the piece.
There have been also been a couple of other changes for this year’s production. The main one for me is that I’ll be performing the role of Claire, one of the 6 women in the play. Claire’s self-esteem has been destroyed by an abusive marriage and finds from the other women, the support she needs to survive and move on. She tells of her experiences through song.
It’s been full-on writing, performing and directing but I don’t profess to be able to do it all alone. Last year I had the help of Assistant Director Jason Marc-Williams and now that we know how the piece works, I’m able to take a role in it with Jason co-directing. It’s an ensemble piece and all about team work in every aspect. We have a fantastic crew and the amazing talents of actors Clêr Stephens, Elena Thomas, Francesca Goodridge, Olwen Rees and Polly Kilpatrick.
35 TIMES has hard-hitting subject matter but a heart-warming message of support which I hope will raise awareness of the issues and empower women to speak out about what they might be experiencing.
35 Times will open at the Parc and Dare Theatre Treorchy on September 12 before touring to Newport’s Riverfront Theatre Studio (14 Sept), Blackwood Miners’ Institute (17 Sept), Chepstow Drill Hall (18 Sept), The Redhouse Merthyr Tydfil (25 & 26 Sept), Cardiff and Vale College Theatre (27 & 28 Sept), Penarth’s Paget Rooms (3 Oct) and Swansea Grand Theatre’s Arts Wing (5 & 6 Oct).
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