Ever heard of ‘street harassment’ before? I have to admit that until yesterday I had not heard the term at all. According to campaigning website http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/ “Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.” That all sounds rather heavy and, let’s be honest this is a heavy subject. If you would like to explore it more then you should head to Islington’s King’s Head Theatre and see Doll’s Eye Theatre’s latest production Might Never Happen.
The show consists of a series of short sketches looking at various aspects of street harassment going from the absurd where two of the team brief the audience on ways to lower the risk of attracting unwanted attention, to the rather frightening man on a bus sitting next to and sparking up an increasingly intimidating conversation with a stranger. Some of the sketches are quite upsetting to watch, whilst others – such as the wonderfully wicked lampooning of a certain popular lunchtime television show – managed to get their point across with a lot of humour.
Written and produced by the company – Actors, Ashley Sean Cook, Catherine Deevy, Paul Matania, Danielle Nott, Kirsty Osman and Vicki Wells and Director Amy Ewbank – and based on a lot of research both anecdotal and academic, Might Never Happen is a fascinating study in society’s attitude to street harassment and also raises some very interesting questions about what can be done to combat it – everything from responding in kind to criminalisation is considered. Actually, I have said society’s attitude to street harassment but it is deeper than that. The sketches illustrate the differences to the ideas of and response to street harassment for different sections of the community. Not surprisingly, the show demonstrates how men often view this differently to women, and one of the scenes was a guy talking about how difficult it is in a male group to even raise the subject let alone think about confronting it. There was also a generational thing, demonstrated in a quite moving poetical sketch of a mother warning her baby daughter about the things she will face later in life.
Overall then Might Never Happen is an extremely well put together show that highlights a major issue experienced by large numbers of women every day. Whilst it is not always easy watching, it is certainly an interesting and intriguing piece that will guarantee intense conversations amongst everyone that sees it. And if those conversations move the world forward in tackling street harassment, then the cast and crew of Might Never Happen really will have done the world a great service.
Review by Terry Eastham
It might never happen. You might be fine. That comment, that look, that whistle, it might not be directed at you. You might have made a mistake. You slip your keys between your knuck-les anyway. It might never happen….. But it might.
‘Might Never Happen’ explores the social phenomenon of street harassment. The play has been written and devised by the company, drawing on research conducted at the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit by Dr Fiona Vera-Gray into the lived experience of men’s stranger intrusions on women in public space, and Dr. Maria Garner into men’s perspectives on gender relations and their experiences of navigating cultures of ‘masculinity’ and being men.
The play explores various aspects and perspectives of street harassment from the ridiculous to the terrifying.
With a cast of four female and two male actors we hope to focus on how both genders perceive street harassment in our society.
Doll’s Eye Theatre: Doll’s Eye Theatre is an all female collective, set up by Artistic Director Amy Ewbank and actor/writers Catherine Deevy, Vicki Welles, Kirsty Osmon, Danielle Nott and producer Caley Powell. The company was set up to challenge audience perception of gender.
Ashley Sean Cook