Powerful domestic violence play coming to Gympie
Creators of a powerful play based on real Queensland stories of domestic violence and survival hope it will prompt difficult discussions when it hits the stage in Gympie on November 25 as part of a state-wide tour.
It All Begins With Love, the culmination of a three-year project by Bundaberg based arts group Creative Regions, uses the direct experiences of victims and perpetrators through verbatim theatre.
Domestic violence is a national crisis and also an issue particularly difficult to address in regional areas where a lack of understanding and concerns about anonymity can make victims reluctant to seek help.
In the Wide Bay Burnett region alone there were 517 domestic violence incidents per 100,000 people from 2013 to 2014.
It All Begins With Love stars five women of various ages, each identified by number rather than name to suggest statistics, who tell stories of the domestic violence cycle and the silenced worlds within which they live. Some of the characters are direct from individual interviewees, others are amalgams.
Creative Regions has partnered with Erin House Women's Refuge and UnitingCare Community to stage the show at James Nash State High School.
The play has been meticulously developed over three years in partnership with a range of domestic and family violence service providers including Relationships Australia and UnitingCare Community.
Creative Regions began working with the Domestic Violence Forum members in Bundaberg in 2011 through the Regional Stages Project (funded by Arts Queensland, Australia Council, and Bundaberg Regional Council) to investigate how performing arts could be used as an intervention strategy around domestic violence issues.
Creative Producer Rod Ainsworth interviewed a dozen people for the piece, including some male perpetrators. The interviews form the basis of a half-hour performance, that Ainsworth hopes will lift the lid on domestic violence in small towns.
"The resolutions for the characters reflect those of the interviewees. All women interviewed had managed to leave the relationship and most have a story of hope. The play, only 30 minutes in length, is designed to reflect the 'light at the end of the tunnel' - especially given that it is hoped the play will be used in education and counselling situations as a conversation starter. However, it was important to reflect the tinge of darkness that is ever present for victims of domestic violence.
"It has been an eye-opening experience for everyone involved. We have had people come up to us after the play with incredible feedback. One woman approached me in the car park to tell me her personal story of domestic violence, while others have asked the typically wrong question "why don't the women leave?" and even children have outwardly questioned behaviour they have witnessed. Seeing how the play can start a conversation with people from all walks of life and ages is unbelievably valuable," Mr Ainsworth said.
The Queensland Government is providing $197,225 through Arts Queensland's Playing Queensland Fund for the production to tour. Queensland Government funding will also support respected academic Dr Wendy Madsen from Central Queensland University to independently evaluate the production and its impact on the tour's regional communities.
The cast (note: characters are numbers only)
ONE - Susan Prince
TWO - Karen Crone
THREE - Anna Yen
FOUR - Roxanne McDonald
FIVE - Penny Everingham
Performance dates & locations
November 25, 2015
James Nash State High School