Theatre has long been used to deal with difficult and distressing issues in a “safe” space. Some of my favourite shows in recent years have dealt with drug addiction, war and child exploitation yet one issue that I feel theatre does not deal with well is domestic violence, and that really is why 102 is such an original piece of theatre.
On my way to the theatre this evening I was thinking about where I’d seen domestic abuse portrayed at the theatre before and I came up with four shows, all of which deal with the issue poorly. At best, Carousel and Oliver gloss over the issue, accepting it as a fact of life, Little Shop of Horrors’ portrayal of abuse victim Audrey is thinly veiled victim blaming and, at worst, Private Lives asks us to laugh at couples beating one another up. Yet when 1 woman is killed every 3 days by a current or former partner, and 1 in 3 women experiences some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, is this really the way theatre should be portraying this issue?
102 clearly disagrees. In this hard hitting and quite frankly uncomfortable play we are brought face to face with the harsh reality of life in an abusive relationship. The constant fear, the mind games and the outright violence are not swept under the carpet but are centre stage. Whilst watching the play I was struck less by the violent scenes (although these were very difficult to watch) but more by the subtleties of the story. The body language of April (played by Lucy Oglesby) as her partner Joe (Ugo Onguwhalu) approaches- the slight flinching at his touch, the leaning away from him, the undercurrent of fear- was particularly powerful, as was a monologue towards the end of the play, the content made all the worse by the deadpan delivery, the emotionless acceptance of April that this had happened.
Yet what I also liked about this show was that beneath the bruises and the terror was a real person with a real
personality willing to fight for her daughter and ultimately for her life. Two other characters feature in the story, another couple, Callie and Nathan, who are old friends of April and Joe, who give these people a history. It hits home that abuse can happen to anyone from anywhere, that nobody deserves it or brings it upon themselves, a much better image than the one Little Shop of Horrors leaves.
Yet Callie and Nathan are more than just there to give a history, they are there to represent something more, the
people who see the abuse happening but don’t recognise it. There’s a moment when Callie sees April’s bruises but doesn’t ask the question, another where her and Nathan witness a fight but don’t question the excuse. Who knows what would have happened if they had, maybe the story would have ended the same, maybe it wouldn’t. But the message is clear, it’s time to stop ignoring domestic abuse, it’s time to stop making excuses for it, it’s time for the theatre to hit it head on and it’s time for people to talk about it.
Overall if you want a fun night out at the theatre then this show probably isn’t for you. But if you want a well-acted, hard hitting piece of drama then I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Review by Emily Diver
Two women every week are murdered by their partners in the UK. 8 women a month. 96 women a year. Not to mention those who don’t die but are still living with the scars of abuse every single waking day.
102 is a new theatre piece produced by Odds On Productions. It is inspired by true events of domestic violence and domestic abuse.
The story spans over one evening, in a newlyweds flat. We watch the claustrophobic events unfold and are taken along in the journey of the world of these characters within this evening.
This is a really important issue with strikingly distressing statistics. What 102 aims to do is dispel the myths attached to the idea of domestic violence and domestic abuse and spark conversation through music and theatre to begin to bring to light the severity of this issue.
Presented by Odds on Productions and Space Productions
Writer & Director
Odds On Productions
102 will run at The Space from 29th May – 3rd June 2017
The Space is located at 269 Westferry Road, E14 3RS