When physical violence does erupt into our world, it therefore leaves a huge range of trauma behind it, including in many cases intense feelings of loneliness and failure – and nowhere is this more true than for women victims of domestic violence, whose experience is brilliantly and vividly explored in Martha Watson Allpress’s new monologue Patricia Gets Ready (For A Date With The Man Who Used To Hit Her) (****).
Based on Allpress’s own experience of an abusive relationship, and superbly performed by Angelina Chudi, Patricia Gets Ready is set in Patricia’s bedroom in her mum’s house, where she has retreated after finally leaving the man who used to hit her. After a year away, the man has come back; Patricia has met him in the street, and somehow agreed to meet him for dinner tonight. Her plan is to confront him with the reality of what he did to her; her fear is that she won’t be able to do it, and will once again slip into the submissive behaviour he used to demand of her.
She is also in rebellion, though, against the society’s stereotypes of how she should behave. As a former battered woman she feels she is expected to be broken, small, vulnerable, uninterested in sex, incapable of enjoying life, whereas she – despite her huge rage and pain – feels none of these things. Will she make her prepared speech to the man who used to hit her? We don’t know; but by the end of a short, vivid, sometimes funny and sometimes heart-breaking hour, the whole audience is willing her on, on her journey towards some sort of healing.
The aftermath of violence is also the theme of new young UK group Piccolo Theatre’s Screen 9 (***); but here, the shock is acted out in real time, as the audience in the Lomond Theatre at EICC find themselves in a darkened auditorium, reliving the horror of the 2012 mass shooting incident in Aurora, Colorado, when twelve people were killed, and many more severely injured, at the packed midnight premiere of a new Batman film.
Barton’s play - extensively based on interviews with survivors - is very much a piece of two halves, with its gripping and immediate opening half hour followed by a much more reflective and much less dramatic sequence in which four survivors describe their lives since the shooting, and reflect on the political questions around gun control and American culture that are raised by these horrific events.
The show that emerges from this process is finally more like a short and fragmented documentary session than a great play. Yet as the company makes clear, every line of the text comes from actual survivors’ words; and that gives this heartfelt piece a certain quiet authority, in its effort to increase understanding of the suffering of those confronted by violence so extreme, and so shockingly unexpected, that many victims felt they had suddenly become part of the film that they had come along to watch, in such a mood of happy excitement, and anticipation.
If outright physical violence is relatively rare in our culture, though, other forms of violence are much more common, and equally insidious; and this year’s Fringe offers two powerful monologues that reflect on the impact of social exclusion, and the casual cruelty that often accompanies it. Brian Foster’s solo show Myra’s Story (****) - playing at Assembly in George Square Gardens - is not new to the Fringe, and scored a huge success here in 2019; but it’s well worth a visit to the gardens to experience Fiona Hewitt-Twamley’s remarkable, funny and heartbreaking performance as Dublin rough sleeper Myra, a woman broken by a combination of heartbreaking bereavement, and an overwhelming addiction to alcohol which she cannot escape.
Lubna Kerr, likewise, is a wonderfully vibrant and witty performer, known mainly for her stand-up comedy; but in her new solo play Tickbox (****) she tells the story of her Pakistani family’s journey to Scotland, and the stresses that accompanied their new life here, in a more reflective style, although with many flashes of humour.
The connecting threat in Lubna’s story - and a highly topical one, in the light of the Covid epidemic - is the extent to which the pain of the casual racism encountered by Lubna’s family in Scotland, accompanied by the culture shock of adapting to a different climate and diet, actually damaged their health, and shortened their lives. These truths are not easy to hear, for those who cling to the myth that Scotland is somehow a nation free of racism, where all Jock Tamson’s bairns can live happily together. For those who understand and love the reality of contemporary Scotland, though, and of all multicultural societies, Tickbox is a rich and glowing contribution to our deeper knowledge of ourselves; and of all the astonishingly vivid strands of global history that make up the culture of a city like Glasgow, in the year 2021.
Patricia Gets Ready and Screen 9 are at [email protected] until 29 August; Myra’s Story is at Assembly George Square Gardens until 29 August. Tickbox is at Army at the Fringe until 22 August.
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