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Opinions on play about domestic violence please

(56 Posts)
Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 12:13:28

I am trying to write a theatre in education piece to tour around schools, looking at abuse within relationships, particularly teenage relationships. My quandary however is that I have a young male actor (early twenties) and an older female (early forties) playing the couple that the story is based on. I was originally going for the slant of the older female as abuser but not too sure now. Perhaps the younger male would be better/more effective in the piece.

I don't want to be cliched but of course the message of the piece needs to come across clearly to the audience (Year 9 upwards). I would have preferred to have had performers of similar ages to get a more typical teen relationship, but I am trying to focus on what I can do with a relationship in which there is a significant age difference between partners - without making that the crux of the problem.

I was thinking maybe I could have the young male character initially appearing as the vulnerable one that gets looked after by the older female, but that it was a faced and his more controlling and abusive nature begins to show.

What do people think? Which is the less naff and cliched scenario? Or do I try to make it so the violence and abuse comes from both?

I don't have any personal experience to base this on, so just trying to read up and research what I can find online eg the Home Office site on teen relationship violence.


Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 12:14:22

Facade, not faced.

mcmooncup Fri 25-Jan-13 12:16:50

Please do not do female to male abuse. That would be incredibly irresponsible.

Why are you using a relationship with an age gap? If you want to do a play about abuse, make it about abuse, not an age gap.

fluffyanimal Fri 25-Jan-13 12:19:57

Wow, what a thorny issue! Could you tell us your main aims for the piece, i.e. what you want the audience to get out of it? E.g. raising awareness that men can suffer abuse; abuse doesn't have to be violent; "but she was asking for it" is no justification for abuse etc? It might help to focus the issue. Not that I know anything about DV, but if it were me, I'd be wanting to push home the message that so-called provocation is no excuse for abuse - but you may have a different agenda.

MamaMary Fri 25-Jan-13 12:31:39

Your actors need to be the same age. This could be a great opportunity to explore teenage sexual relationships and the negative effect porn has had. DV could be linked to the increasingly misogynistic and violent porn that young men consume these days.

VoiceofUnreason Fri 25-Jan-13 12:48:29

mcmoon - I am not criticizing, at all, this is a genuine question: why would it be incredibly irresponsible to do female to male abuse? As someone who works in theatre, I can tell you that I can't ever remember seeing a play or piece of work where this took place, it is always male to female. I have found it most interesting to see the response to the current storyline on Coronation Street in this respect.

Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 13:46:18

I am still thrashing out exactly what the issue will be. At the moment it is a vague one. I am stuck with the actors I have which means that the relationship between characters will have an age gap, but I don't want that to be the focus...I do worry that it muddies the water though.

I do very much like the idea about sexual abuse/ porn. I heard something on the radio the other day, Woman's Hour I think, that raised lots of interesting points. I am not sure how well it would sit with schools though. I think I would have to talk to PSHE departments in schools and find out what they cover and if parents would object to their children as young as 14, seeing a play addressing porn and the negative impact on teen relationships.

Definitely food for thought though. Any other pointers?

Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 13:53:31

Actually, thinking about it, I needn't have the actors to be acting as a couple. I could avoid the age thing by just having them play characters that directly address the audience, maybe using verbatim accounts if I can find some.

MamaMary Fri 25-Jan-13 14:14:16

You mean like monologues? That might work. I honestly think the couple being in a relationship would be a bit weird because of the age gap which would become the issue...

Possibility of older woman being the mother of a girl who had been tragically abused by the lad? A bit heavy perhaps, but it is a serious topic...

I saw a play recently about the dynamics between a young jailed woman who had murdered a boy and the boy's mother. It was called The Long Road. I personally thought it was a rubbish play - for various reasons - but it got good reviews.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 14:17:22

Female to male abuse is a very real issue that definately needs to be highlighted. I can't see why it would be irresponsible to portray that at all

Lueji Fri 25-Jan-13 14:26:29

You could have the play as following a support group where members share their stories, thereby showing the different aspects of DV.

It might also be interesting to have the dynamics of people who have suffered abuse not understanding other's points of view.
For example, "you were not punched, that's only mild abuse/not at all", or "why didn't you just fight her? You are a man"

VoiceofUnreason Fri 25-Jan-13 14:31:00

Forgetful - nor can I and that's why I'd really like to know what mcmoon is getting at.

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:39:05

There was a fantastic drama on about 8 months ago - was it called simply 'Murder' ? - which used monologues to introduce and explore issues of abuse. It was absolutely amazing, ambiguous until almost the end. Well worth seeing, hard to watch.

I don't think showing female-to-male abuse is responsible either, in particular if the actor is in her forties - it won't resonate with the girls (that they need to watch for these signs of abuse from men) or with the boys (yeah yeah that's my mum, whatever - rather than 'I should not behave like this towards women'). There is a place for a drama about female-to-male abuse but surely in a school setting you want to cover the biggest problem most comprehensively?

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 25-Jan-13 14:43:18

I think it would be a much more powerful message for teens (if that's your audience) to show a fairly evenly-matched couple with strong personalities, intelligence etc but make the contrast the one between 'behind closed doors' and 'the public face'. You don't need porn or big age-gaps .... the most sinister aspect of abusive relationships is how often they are outwardly normal, happy and involve people who you would think are able to handle anything. The cumulative effect of different types of abuse....emotional, financial, sexual, verbal..... leading up to physical abuse

I think most teens will be thinking a) DV will never happen to me and b) I don't know anyone in a DV relationship.

AllThoseDirtyWords Fri 25-Jan-13 14:43:34

Could they play mother and son with the father as the abuser but written as an unseen character? You can then look at how the abuse affects them both.

Or a mother dealing with her son being violent to his girlfriend?

arthriticfingers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:45:28

Many, many years ago, I taught English and Drama at secondary level. A project was set up to 'approach' drugs. I refused to take part although I did a lot of work around drugs in class as I could not see what possible benefit it would be to the students.
The students were invited to participate. The final piece ended up reinforcing every stereotype about drugs ever put on TV, from the 'cool' drug dealer in shades to the 'floozy' girlfriend.
There is so much ignorance about abuse that non experts (like people bringing drama into schools) would do so much better to approach anything near abuse, indirectly - by showing a scene where power was obviously being abused, in a peer friendship, for example.
Leave partner abuse to people from the Freedom Programme.

VoiceofUnreason Fri 25-Jan-13 14:53:30

Stephanie - but what you say is more about the resonance of the AGE side of it. I still don't see why covering the topic of female-against-male abuse ITSELF in school is irresponsible. In fact, in view of that recent film of the young girl verbally and physically abusing an autistic boy that was shown on the news and discussed in a thread on here, I'd said say it is important that children of BOTH sexes are made aware that abuse by BOTH sexes is wrong and that showing just one side is not sufficient, just because male-against-female abuse is more widespread

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:56:08

No, I disagree. There's an overwhelming bias towards male-to-female abuse. I think that should take precedence in this context, where presumably there's no time to cover all forms of abuse.

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:57:26

Anyway, I agree more with arthriticfingers: it needs an expert hand, really.

VoiceofUnreason Fri 25-Jan-13 15:06:16

Stephanie - I clearly didn't say there was no bias. I clearly said male-to-female abuse is more widespread.

I am simply asking for why it is IRRESPONSIBLE to for this to be presented in school. Choosing NOT to do something because it is in the MINORITY is not the same thing by any token as it being irresponisble, which is what both you and mcmoon have suggested. I didn't chose that word.

As a male who has witnessed at close hand female-to-male abuse, I cannot possibly understand why just because it happens less rarely, the idea of discussing or presenting it in school is irresponsible. I find it slightly offensive, to be honest, as it suggests it is less important.

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 15:09:31

As a female who has also witnessed female-to-male abuse, I think it is irresponsible to give total focus to that issue in this context, when time is limited, and for perhaps 50% of those girls, male-to-female abuse (whether violent or sexual or emotional or all) is going to be a defining feature of their lives.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 15:11:20

Stephanie - there is a bias of male to female abuse.

Precisely. That is why we need to be made more aware of female to make abuse. I mean does anyone actually think female to male abuse happens? Or do people think its just an urban myth? Female to male abuse (both physical & emotional) does happen & I would bet its not as rare as you think.

I like the Idea of exploring situations whereby outwardly the couple appears perfectly normal - I think this is the main reason DV carries on for so long,because no one realises what goes on behind closed doors

VoiceofUnreason Fri 25-Jan-13 15:34:32

Stephanie - ah, so we should never worry about anything that affects a minority then?

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 15:43:26

Of course not, but there is limited time to highlight any of these issues, so personally I would want the issue that affects the most people to be the one that is focused on in this context.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 15:44:44

Actually I think the older woman abusing the younger male could be portrayed quite well. I think in this situation the age gap would work in favour of a female to male abuse rather than the other way round.

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