Edinburgh Fringe play staged in council house

Our Glass House launched in Wester Hailes. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Our Glass House launched in Wester Hailes. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A HARD-HITTING play about domestic abuse which is staged in an empty council house has begun its run as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Our Glass House will be performed at the vacant property in Wester Hailes from today until 25 August and will focus on the victims of abuse while exploring their reasons to stay or leave an abusive household. Plotlines are based on real life cases of abuse, producers said.

The stories of six distinctive characters are told simultaneously throughout the house with the audience moving from room to room as the plot unfolds.

Violent and harrowing at times, the play follows highly acclaimed runs in Bradford and Bristol and includes a startling performance by Jasmin Riggins who starred in Ken Loach’s recent award-winning film The Angels’ Share.

The 20-year-old plays Kayleigh, 17, who lives with her abusive boyfriend.

At one stage during the hour-long show her head is forced into a bath of water in the bathroom of the house with audience members splashed as the events unfold.

Deafening music and jarring sound affects are also employed to draw the audience into the action around them.

Actors and the audience move outside onto the streets of the council estate for the play’s dramatic finale.

The staging of Our Glass House, by the Common Wealth Theatre, has been funded by the Scottish Government, Edinburgh City Council, and Police Scotland, whose chief constable Sir Stephen House was among the audience yesterday.

Director Evie Manning said she decided to stage the play after a neighbour was abused by her husband.

“The idea for the piece emerged last year when an ambulance was called for my neighbour and her young son in the middle of the day and revealed all of the horrific abuse that she had been suffering for years, just on the other side of the wall”, she said.

“Her husband kept the house whilst she went into a refuge with her two young children, and no one on the street spoke about it again. It just seemed so unjust, and I was shocked at how taboo the issue was, even today.”

The number of domestic incidents recorded in Edinburgh over the last four years has risen from 4.952 to 5,335. In around 45 per cent of these incidents children were identified as being present or resident in the home.

According to the figures quoted in the show, anti-domestic abuse funding has been cut by an average by 31 per cent by local authorities in England and Wales.

However, funding in Scotland for the period 2012-2015 has maintained at 2011-12 levels, with £34.5m allocated for 12-15. This is a 60 per cent increase since 2007.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city’s health and social care leader, said: “As Our Glass House so vividly demonstrates, the consequences of domestic abuse are wide spread and have a devastating effect on its victims, their children and society as a whole.

“Witnessing or experiencing domestic abuse is one the most serious risks to children in our society and can have an impact on their long term development and wellbeing as well as potentially shaping their attitudes and beliefs as adults.”

Lesley Johnston, chair of the Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership, added: “We are delighted to support and host this powerful theatre event, which highlights the impact that different forms of gender-based violence can have upon those affected.

“Each production is followed by workshops with professional staff with information on local support services available to add to the impact of this event.”