Cardiff based theatre company Mercury Theatre Wales have created an immersive theatre experience designed to raise education and highlight the issues around domestic violence and abuse. Statistically 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence or abuse at some point during their lives and 35 Times puts a spotlight on this often hidden crime and those who suffer as a result.
The production was first performed last year and the reaction from audiences was so strong that funding has been given to the company to repeat the work with the aim of encouraging a wider public across South Wales to see the production including young people from high schools and colleges as well as members of the police and policy makers. The production was nominated for a Wales Theatre Award in 2017.
The piece will tour venues in Cardiff, Treorchy, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Blackwood Chepstow and Swansea during September and October this year.
35 Times is based on real life stories following months of research by the theatre company attending sessions where survivors of abuse have relayed their stories as well as consultation with women’s support charities including Women’s Aid.
The production itself sees an audience of up to 70 people sitting with the performers as part of a coffee morning where the actors tell stories and experiences through acting, song and movement. The ‘up close’ experience of the audience helps immerse them and engage fully in this thought-provoking work. The audience is encouraged to stay at the end and discuss what they have seen over a coffee and talk through the issues it has emphasised.
The cast of 35 Times includes Francesca Goodridge, Polly Kilpatrick, Bethan Morgan, Olwen Rees, Clêr Stephens and Elena Thomas and the piece is produced by Glesni Price Jones.
Writer and Director of 35 Times Bethan Morgan said, “The piece illustrates how this kind of mistreatment can happen to anyone irrespective of age and background and how domestic abuse isn’t always violent, but can also manifest itself through extreme controlling behaviour. The aim of 35 Times is to empower people to speak out if they recognise that they are in an abusive relationship. For many people it is not just a question of simply leaving a relationship as the consequences can be very dangerous and we highlight the reasons for this in the work.”
Bethan Morgan continues, “For high school and college students there are strong messages to be heard that will educate them on these difficult issues at a young age, looking at what is acceptable behaviour and how to empower others so that they do not suffer in silence. Police also can be further informed on the depth of circumstances surrounding domestic violence and their own crucial role in supporting victims.”
Julie Morgan AM said, “I was lucky enough to see 35 Times. It was a truly inspirational piece of art and highlighted the awful issues surrounding domestic abuse that affect so many people each year, through a very personal and powerful medium. I believe that Mercury Theatre Wales’ work, through ’35 Times’ will provide the public, as well as the Police force, a realistic and thought provoking view of domestic violence which will hopefully remove some of the stigma and call people to action.”
Andrea Hodges, Head of Drama, Cardiff and Vale College said, “We are providing the learners at our College the opportunity to view this performance and learn more about devised performances as well gaining knowledge on the themes of domestic violence. The performing arts courses we run are currently level 2 and 3 BTEC and a Foundation Degree in performing arts and this would be an ideal opportunity for our students to experience an audience-immersive piece of theatre. 35 times not only raises awareness about domestic abuse, but is a vital professional training opportunity. Theatre is a powerful tool to communicate real experience and seeing something visual like this has the ability to move and educate at a much deeper level.”
In order to reach as wide an audience as possible there will also be BSL interpreted and audio described performances.
More details about Mercury Theatre Wales are available at www.mercurytheatrewales.co.uk.
Main image: Olwen Rees and Clêr Stephens