Taking on the subject of domestic coercion, Rattlesnake says something new from an unexpected direction.
It’s been ages since I last saw them, but it’s about time I acknowledged the success of Open Clasp Theatre Company, one of the leading theatre companies writing stories by women about women. That scores no bonus points here though – my sole interest is whether their stories are any good, where there’s good reasons to think so. I never managed to catch the smash hit Key Change, but I did see The Space Between Us four years ago, and whilst some bits of the story didn’t make sense, the thing that really impressed me was the characterisation: four outsiders (three immigrants and one traveller) depicted incredibly convincingly based on painstaking work interviewing real women. Now, in a co-production with Live Theatre, they take on the subject of domestic abuse, but not domestic violence, as is portrayed so often, but coercive control.
The distinction between violence and control is important. It is only recently that society has started wising up to the psychological element of domestic abuse. It’s easy to say “Why don’t you just leave your partner?”, and yes, for anyone in a sound state of mind that’s an easy thing to say, but that’s precisely the tactic of the abusers: to use fear, humiliation or any other tactics to make the victim see staying as the less bad option. Even if staying means putting up with more violence. But here, there’s no violence, just the mind games, and that can also be devastating. The law started to catch up in 2015 when coercive control was made a crime. Continue reading
All-female theatre doesn’t have to be garish entertainment. Two Newcastle plays on this week, Open Clasp’s The Space Between Us and The Killing of Sister George at the People’s Theatre shows what else you can do.
Look, I like women. Most of my friends are female. But I cannot stand girlie entertainment. It took me years to years to recover from the Spice Girls and painful pseudo-feminism. Just when I thought it was safe to go outside, what I do I find plastered over every theatre? Girls Night, set in a karaoke bar featuring songs such as “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men”. Already I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Lauded by critics as Sex and the City meets Mamma Mia! Not good. Pink glow sticks for the audience. Eeek. And the plot? Apparently five women representing the five “types” on a night out: one “born to party”, one who “says it like it is”, one with “issues”, one “boring but handy for driving”, and one “not so angelic angel.” Oh please … Actually, I think might be a blueprint for my afterlife when I die and get sent to Hell.
(Okay, and to give credit where it’s due, this is not some manufactured bum-on-seats product devised by marketing executives, but a play that writer Louise Roche originally put on off her own back without any big players backing her. For that, and getting a smash hit on audience popularity alone, she has my respect. I suppose I shouldn’t really judge this without seeing it for myself; it’s just that if I had to sit through this, I fear I may go insane.)
But help is at hand. All-female plays don’t have to be garish froth. They can be intelligent and thought-provoking too, and two that have been in Newcastle this week are Open Clasp’s The Space Between Us and The Killing of Sister George at the People’s Theatre.