I’m spending 10 days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and wanted to share my dramatherapy thoughts on some of the productions.
First in the spotlight “The Words Are There” by Nth Degree Productions.
In this one-man show we meet Mick as he recounts moments of his relationship with Trish (absent except for a mop as an avatar and a voice-over). The tender moments when they meet and fall in love, the funny moments where they find joy, the harrowing moments of emotional abuse and physically violence.
Both characters carry trauma from their past and although there are moments where they glimpse love, there are other moments when they hurt each other, especially when Trish is violent and abusive towards Mick.
Mick is a sweet but timid guy who talks with a stutter. He meets Trish who has experienced childhood abuse and domestic violence. Trish expects to be hit “I deserve it”. Mick does not hit her; he treats her kindly and lovingly. Trish initially responds by welcoming this affection and tenderness.
The piece beautifully shows the way Mick tries to care for Trish as he brushes the mops hair, dresses the mop, dances with the mop, kisses the mop, attaches a glove to the mop so he can hold her hand.
But Trish drinks, and sometimes when drunk she becomes abusive and violent. She taunts Mick. She hurts Mick. Even after violent outbreaks Mick tries to comfort and protect the mop representing Trish.
Trish may be hurting but Mick is too. In the stress of the relationship Mick loses the ability to speak his own truth. Ashamed and unable to ask for help; how does a man phone up Samaritans or the police to report that the girlfriend, who is shorter than him, is abusing him? Would they believe him? The Charity ManKind works with male victims of domestic abuse and report that half of men who experience this do not tell anybody.
Domestic Violence information
Often domestic abuse is framed as a “Women’s Issue”. Most domestic violence hostels or shelters are women-only spaces – where can you go if you are a male victim? There are currently only 50 male only spaces for male victims fleeing domestic abuse. This is now changing, in a parliamentary debate in the house of commons last month, Baroness Newlove said “We see and hear that male victims have limited access to safe accommodation. To address this, for the first time ever councils across England and Wales will be legally required to house securely all victims of domestic abuse and their children. Local authorities will also be legally required to assess the level of support needed in their area for such victims.” (Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse, 06 June 2019). (As this is an Irish play being performed in Scotland I am particularly mindful that legislation for England and Wales is not broad enough.)
One in four women and one in six men will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. So in a normal sized class of 30 school children that could be 4 girls and 3 boys who will one day experience abuse (defined as “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”).
The play powerfully shows some of the complex reasons why a person may stay in an abusive relationship and juxtaposes the moments of abuse with other happier times of intimate connection. Despite being terrified of Trish, Mick still loves her and wants to care for her.
I noticed that the character Mick often took the blame for Trish’s worst behaviour “I’m sorry” was a prominent theme. I also noticed that they play needed to show why Trish was violent in a way which is often not required when the abuse is the other way around – a male who is violent is often portrayed as “just bad” but a female who is violent must be really hurting. Hurt people hurt people, but this influence is not a justification. I believe one of the reasons for therapy is to make sure the trauma stops here – “the pain which has been passed on to me will not be passed on to others. It stops here.” People can heal from trauma.
The play ends with Mick finding the words to finally express his truth, after 15 years with Trish.
These words written here do not do justice to the power and resonance of this play. Go and see it if you can.
Words Are There plays at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall until 24 August 2019.
Book tickets at:
If you have been living with domestic violence or abuse there is support available, whether you are the perpetrator or the victim or somewhere in between.
If you are a male victim of domestic abuse, get help:
ManKind Initiative: 01823 334244
Respect: 0808 801 0327 (also webchat service).
In an emergency phone the police: 999