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 again 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.
After a period of devising with actors in May of last year, Julie Morgan AM sponsored an event at the Welsh Assembly Senedd building for us to show our work, our exploration of ways to present Survivors’ stories in a theatre piece. Then I wrote the play, for the first time as a solo writer, but it wasn’t difficult. I was by now totally immersed in the issue and had joined the Welsh Women’s Aid SEEDS programme (Survivors Empowering and Educating Services). I found myself on a ‘Train the Trainer’ accredited course, observing Police Training on Coercive Control. I knew I could contribute and make a difference.
There are six women in the play of different ages and backgrounds, each with a different, difficult story to tell but they are united by their need to speak out and supported by each other’s understanding. It is an immersive piece where the actors join the audience and allow them into their worlds at close quarters, sharing their memories both good and bad and their feelings of joy, despair and hope.
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.
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