I came home last night from watching a ‘run-through’ of a brand new script to a never before performed play. I found it profoundly moving and quite traumatic because it brought back much of the subject content of the self-esteem counselling I endured and from which I benefitted throughout 2017. Let me explain …
There is a local Womens Aid Centre in our local town, as there are in many towns. The staff and volunteers’ faces there soon became recognised beacons of warmth at the regular meetings. Stepping in from cold, wet autumn evenings to their brightly lit rooms with walls covered in artwork, produced by women who still like to go back and partake in coffee mornings they hold regularly, made you feel safe and at home somehow.
These walls have seen and heard it all. There is no story which would shock the fabric of this place. The volunteers have helped hundreds of women rediscover themselves or assist in them ‘seeing’ perhaps for the first time that they have choices ahead of them, and that if they make choices to change aspects of their lives, the world will keep spinning. It won’t necessarily come crashing down around their ears because now the wealth of knowledge out there in the support systems; the police force, the courts, the lawyers means these women can feel safer if they wish to report domestic abuse.
However for many, they don’t report it. One of the most important sentences issued by my counsellor during my first week, which she warned would be hard to hear and it was, was that I would need to start to take responsibility for my own wellbeing and hence future happiness. She explained I’d made one of the biggest decisions by visiting her – she recognised that finally I was no longer happy to sit back and let life happen to me, leaving me unhappy, unfulfilled, victimised and silent. I did not argue or defend myself; I was low enough to simply nod and let the knowledge run through my veins that from this point onwards, if I didn’t want to be a victim, I would have to stop behaving and reacting the way I had been. All my life. To many different characters along the way. (You’ll appreciate this post Jennifer) I refer to the amazing Jennifer Gilmour who wrote her debut novel based around domestic abuse and how Rose, her MC, finally escapes.
I digress; back to the play. There was a murder in Suffolk a very long time ago, about which many plays were written over the next hundred years or so. Although I’m not keen on wiki, I will use it today so that you can read about it here.
Practically all the plays based around this true story were written by men and are about the murderer or the police teams and how the search for Corder was carried out. Most are about bringing Corder to justice – thats all good stuff.
About five months ago, a playwright (we’ll call her Lizzie) visited the womens aid centre by arrangement to meet with some of the women who had completed the Freedom Program and Self Esteem courses during the previous few months. We were treated to four afternoons of literary exercises and chat while she got to know us and our stories and we were given the opportunity to write prose and poetry. The aim, she explained, was for her to write a new play from the point of view of Maria, the victim. Lizzie had been fascinated by the Red Barn Murder story and felt there was an untold story here – that of Maria and the life she may have led up to the point of her death at the hands of Corder.
Three months has passed since we last saw Lizzie. Yesterday, we met the meet the six women who would perform the parts in Lizzie’s play, and to sit and watch them go through various scenes which they had been working on for only three days. They carried their scripts with them, yet still managed to portray emotions and friendships, difficult relationships between the girls as the years passed and Corder worked his magic on Maria’s grasp of life through gas lighting.
Lizzie’s play starts when Maria and her village friends are all young and it reminded me so much of that amazing ‘Always’ advert which did the rounds a few years back. Even now, I can’t watch this without shedding a tear, so valid is the content.
When the scenes were finished for our benefit, and I had swept away more tears, the Director stood and asked if any of use would like to say anything. Well guess who spoke?! Yup, you know me so well; I did not let the emotions disrupt what I had to say 😀
I found my voice and complemented her on writing a script that covered so many of the aspects of living like a victim and how that manifests itself; withdrawal from family and friends because you’ve been persuaded that your friends are not making comments in your best interest is just one of many examples I saw performed brilliantly. I complemented the six women who now were sat on the stage awaiting feedback. The girl playing Maria had adopted the perfect nervousness exhibited when confronted by strangers, the perfect defiance and defence of Corder when friends questioned his ‘love’ because of the gas lighting he had been inflicting upon her.
We all clapped and wished them well in their further rehearsals. The performance is not due to take place until June and anyone going to watch it will need to take a tissue.