Our Glass House

You Are Here As A Witness

As the sign on the wall says you are here as a witness to a very powerful and thought provoking show.

In August I was lucky enough to attend this production by Common Wealth Theatre Company.This Edinburgh version of the show was created for the Edinburgh festival and performed in a house in Morvenside, Wester Hailes. In fact the house, the actors and members of the audience are the show and all interact in it.

Domestic abuse and its effects are one of the biggest problems in Scotland, affecting many people from all walks of life. In this show inside a house on 3 levels, the cast of 6 people successfully portrayed how abuse affects people in different ways.

We the audience were slowly introduced in to the house in pairs and told not just to watch one specific thing in the house but to explore and continually move around. As you moved from room to room, on the narrow stairways to each floor, hearing music and sound effects, the characters in their rooms told their story of being abused through speech, actions, individually and sometimes together. Even as a spectator in this I soon started to feel uncomfortable in this situation with the shouting, singing, swearing and people running around. The feeling of utter helplessness for these people. You felt like yelling to them just walk away and get out of this, but for many people in this kind of situation it is not possible.

The finale of this show took us out in to the street to a scene that as a Wester Hailes resident I have seen before: screaming, shouting, car doors slamming, loud music, the screech of tyres. This was a show I was glad was over not because it was bad, but because more than an hour of this for me certainly was enough. This show should be made in to some kind of documentary and shown regularly to people and agencies, schools – everywhere. Domestic abuse affects so many people in this country and budgets and funding to provide help for people suffering from it have been cut drastically in the last few years.

After the performance many of us stayed for an after show discussion about how we felt it affected us and to talk to the people involved in making this show, Evie Manning and Rhiannon White. One interesting point brought up was that we give more money in this country to pet charities than we do to agencies that support people suffering from abuse. Members of Lothian and Borders police attended the show and were one of the many sponsors involved in this production.

This story was not just a show but documented facts from interviews of of hundreds of people who have suffered from all forms of abuse. This just doesn’t happen in places like Wester Hailes, it’s all around us. A great show and great performance.

David Jacobs for the Digital Sentinel.

Update: Common Wealth Theatre won an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Highly Commended for this production. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20934 They thank the residents of Westburn for their support in mounting this production which was supported by Prospect Community Housing and WHALE Arts.

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