It’s been an exceptionally busy time for Reality Theatre since our last production, ‘Stand By Your Man’. We became a Community Interest Company, which was great news, and I have been busy trying to raise funds to keep us going. Initially, I gave myself a year to pilot Reality Theatre as a prospective community business. Just as the money was about to run out and I figured I’d have to go back to a ‘proper job’ and fold the company, the hard work paid off. We have just been give our first pot of funding from the amazing Communities First, as well as conditional funding for a research project we shall be moving on to next (as soon as conditions are met, I shall announce further details). Suffice to say, this has been a very hard period, but so worth it when I look at the work we have carried out and the work that we are about to do. Without the fantastic team, none of this would have been possible and I would like to take the opportunity to thank them all for giving up their time, with no payment, to make this work. Guys, I promise as soon as funding comes in, you will be paid for your services whenever possible!
In the meantime, work on the Crush Hate Crime festival is well underway and I take my hat off to all event organisers and promoters out there – this has been such a difficult and stressful event to manage and it’s been wonderful to see my son, Joe, rise to the occasion and take care of the music side of things.
The play, ‘Just a Bit of Banter’, is a brutal look at prejudice in the UK and raises questions about discrimination: what exactly is hate crime? What does it means to be British, and how do the police deal with such crimes? Needless to say, the research element of this has been harrowing and I’ve been filled with great sadness; this is nothing compared to the suffering that victims of such vile crimes go through.
Please come along and support us. Further dates to be announced soon.
Facts and Figures…
Our most recent performance has highlighted a very prevalent issue, although how prevalent we may never know. We will probably never know how many people are currently living in fear of their partner, in both straight and LGBT relationships. Male and female perpetrators, physical and emotional abuse, male and female victims afraid to leave because they may provoke an outburst of violence.
Would we really know what we would do or how we would react if it were to happen to us? I mean we can talk a big game when watching incidents of domestic violence in plays on TV or even reading books … Telling ourselves that we would never let that happen to us. But would we really be that brave? Would we be able to actually stand up, fight back and walk out?
Before I start to bore you all with the facts and figures my research has uncovered … I wanted to mention that I find that when I start to get involved in a particular subject I’m always confronted by it in some form.
A few weeks ago when we were just getting settled and Josh hadn’t long joined us making us a full ensemble I was met with an incident of domestic abuse. Now I must make a confession – I’m not the most tolerant person on the bus while I’m reading and have forgotten my headphones … I do not like noise that distracts me from my escapism. However, this day I was distracted by a young girl rushing past me and sitting behind me while sobbing audibly.
I was relatively annoyed until I heard her speak:
She was arguing over her hands free with what I can assume was her partner … She was sobbing throughout as she argued saying: Stop phoning me, I’m going to work, you know I’m going to work and that I work in Cardiff … Stop phoning me, this is harassment. She went on to continue pleading for him to stop contacting her, she then cried out really upset: You have just threatened to have me kicked out of my home … Are you serious? I’m going to the police about this.
Now as I had been researching domestic violence I felt I should reach out and I gave her Reality Theatre’s information for if she needed it. She hasn’t contacted me and I haven’t seen her since but perhaps just the reaching out helped – showing that she isn’t alone. After all that can be the only thing needed for someone to make the step…
While researching this issue I was surprised at some of the figures that I found … It makes me want to speak out about this issue. Perhaps, I can help somewhere but for now I’m going to post some information that I found…
- Domestic Violence accounts for 16% of all violent crime
- Domestic Violence accounts for an estimated 2 million victims a year
- 2001/02 British Crime Survey: 635,000 incidents of Domestic Violence in England and Wales
- British Crime Survey – 81% of victims were women… 19% of victims were men
- Domestic Violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime
- 85% of women who leave an abusive relationship return to their abusive partners
- 8% of women will suffer Domestic Violence in any given Year
- 1 in 4 women in England and Wales experience Domestic Violence in their lifetimes
- On average a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police
- A woman will leave an abusive relationship 7 times before leaving for good
- 40-70% of women reported abuse from a partner or from within the family
- 2 women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current/former partner
- Approximately, 100 women and 30 men are murdered per year
- Male victims: Over twice as likely not to report Domestic Abuse
- 10% will inform the police about abuse
- 23% will tell a person in an official position
- 11% will tell a health professional
- The number of female perpetrators has more than quadrupled in the last 10 years – 806 in 2004/05 … 4,866 in 2014/15
- Sigma Survey – 1 in 4 individuals in a same sex relationship experience domestic abuse at some time
- 49% of all Gay and Bisexual men have experienced at least 1 incident of Domestic Abuse
- 1 in 4 Lesbians and Bisexual women have experienced Domestic Violence – 2/3 Abusers are Women and 1/3 Abusers are Men
- 80% of Transgender people have experienced emotional, sexual or physical abuse
A new initiative is coming into play as of April 2016 and it will challenge perpetrators to change their behaviours… If the behaviour changes then there is less chance of repeat victimisation!!
Stand by Your Man opened on Thursday 18th May to a sellout crowd … Making the upstairs room in the Pen and Wig a veritable hothouse full of people. I mean there were even a few people we had to turn away – Amazing for us, not so amazing for those we turned away!!
We did experience our fair share of nerves … However, we were worried about nothing as we had an audience that was basically packed in like sardines !!
Our Stand by Your Man family did us proud: Kiri Evans (Beth), Stuart Fouweather (Stu), Steven Lansdown (Steve), William Craig (Will), Josh Green (Dean) and last but by no means least Jane Morgan (Aunty Jane) !!! Amazing performances given by all… And only one timing error when Steve tried to walk off stage left when he should of gone to the bar. The “heavies” we’re ready to block and guide him to where he had to go (Juls and Myself). I do believe we got a laugh… 😂😂
The response was fantastic … The team were Superb … The tension that built in each scene was palpable and when it exploded to Frank Carter’s: I Hate You the room was shocked!!
Kiri and Stuart were brilliant as Beth and Stu. Kiri (Beth) really made you feel the pain and suffering while she pleaded with audience members for help. Even before Stu explodes into violence we can feel the nervous tension in their relationship and it really hits the audience hard … The desperation from Kiri (Beth) while Stu stalked behind her was nothing short of perfect!! The Girl should be in Hollywood!! Stuart will never get a good guy role again after this … His evil stare and silent brooding make him the ultimate villain.
Amidst this physically abusive relationship with have Dean and Will’s emotionally tumultuous and manipulative relationship. Here I have to give Josh Green his due as he came to us quite late in the rehearsals stage but he powered through amazingly. Throughout we are given a glimpse of an emotionally abusive relationship – Will is a cruel and manipulative abuser who uses Josh’s (Dean) insecurities against him. We are given the impression that Will has all the power in this couple so it is all the more shocking when Josh (Dean) flips and becomes the perpetrator of physical abuse… An amazing portrayal of an LGBT abusive relationship, highlighting a community that is usually overlooked. We have two amazing actors in these roles, they portray the introvert and extrovert really well, with a building of frustration that boils over so suddenly that we are all surprised.
As for Steve what can we really say?? The man is naturally funny, he need only walk into the room. As a result he is always our comic relief even in our most thought-provoking and tense performances. He plays the deluded drunk to a tee. Staggering about the scenes trying to convince himself that things in his past didn’t happen and his drinking everyday to try to forget. It is only when he confronted by the domestic abuse his daughter experienced that it all comes to a head … He attempts to stand up for Kiri (Beth) but he ends up back in the bar trying to equate his own actions with that of what happened to Beth.
Finally, we come to Aunt Jane, of whom I do not have photo. For me Jane is one of the most important characters in this play. Domestic Violence is a crime that has one of the highest revictimisation rates in the UK. Jane is the catalyst for this … She has lived alone believing that this is what men do, they don’t like something so they give you a tuning to keep you in line so she explains it away. She sends Kiri (Beth) back to Stu as she has been conditioned to expect it. Our Jane plays her role well and the lipsyncing at the end is the icing on the cake.
All of our fight scenes were choreographed by the very talented Benjamin Leonidas-Morgan and Volente Lloyd. They very kindly helped us to get the fights right, so that none of our actors were hurt during both rehearsals and the production. Thank-you very much for helping us retain our realism.
And a big thank-you to our very own Boardmember Joe for the sound and lighting … You cued the music at the right times and the right volume… Last but not least our fantastic director Julie Benson, a friend I’m glad I got back in touch with!!! Thank you for being amazing and for letting me help 💃
I can’t believe I’ve forgotten to add Lisa Floyd’s amazing set design … We couldn’t have done it without her and her perfectionism !! Julie and I probably would have thrown something togetber and it would have looked derelict haha!!! You made us look pro and I do hope your finger is now better – Thanks for all your artistic flair…
Some Thoughts on the Arts, by Nicola Jayne Hall
Our new mantra, “Entertainment not Art”, has been met with some reluctance. The thinking behind it is not to insult anyone but to show that for us, real entertainment is about enjoyment. As a result, we are: Entertainment not Art. Our customer base and our main focus has always been on entertaining the community and offering people an alternative night out.
We are taking our cue from the Bard and offering a pub atmosphere and a theatre experience. At the Pen and Wig, we have an available bar in an adjoining room with reasonably priced drinks … if you want to make a night of it then pop in early for a freshly prepared, home-cooked meal before the performance. We are all about the beer and banter and, at the risk of being repetitive, this makes us: Entertainment not Art.
We don’t hate theatre! We appreciate and are partial to a theatrical performance. I can be found singing along, in Cardiff’s Millennium Centre, to one of the musicals that are playing at the time. I won’t ever forget seeing The History Boys (love The History Boys). However, we do find some theatre to be a touch pretentious in its entirety. This was cemented by a performance we recently attended, promoted as a sort of storytelling event. We were in a basement room with high priced drinks and a rather bohemian company. There were pens and stickers on the table to express oneself and an atmosphere [for me, anyway] of not belonging. The only thing I enjoyed were the sweets in a basket in the middle of the table…
They started the night with a get-to-know each other segment, which went down like a lead balloon. Then the first act appeared and explained he would be doing an expressive mime … this, for me, is when art is not entertaining! I’ve never been a fan of mime, but I was willing to sit through it. The mime made me feel uncomfortable and I couldn’t sit still … it probably wasn’t the best thing for me to sit through as it’s content was Suicide!
Now, I have suffered with depression, which has been coupled by anxiety, since I was 13 years old. At the age of 32, I am grateful to my willpower and my strength for every day I have survived since the horrible day 18 years ago when I sat with everything I could use to kill myself in front of me, arguing with myself over whether or not to do it. I chose not to … I chose not to give my bullies the satisfaction of winning … I chose not to crush my family with my brave yet cowardly action. I have also survived the suicidal thoughts that attacked in early February…
To be faced with an expressive mime, in my mind it trivialised the issue of suicide. I was not impressed. I remember thinking that if this is classed as entertainment, then I want out of it… So, as Reality Theatre, we have chosen to focus on the entertainment factor for our performances. We are appealing to the working class and we’re proud of it!
So we are “Entertainment not Art”. We are Reality Theatre that deals with real issues that affect real people in an entertaining way. We put on Storytelling Nights which highlight and showcase the talent of Newport. We are from the community, for the community and full of entertainment! So grab a beer and get in on the banter at one of our performances… we look forward to seeing you there.
I was asked recently why I had left a successful teaching career as senior lecturer with a pension, to set up a theatre group (a pub theatre group at that) that is unlikely to ever make any money, relying on a few teaching hours in the university to get by. My go-to phrase is “I was disillusioned with the education system”, which is partly true (and an issue I shall return to at a later date). Whatever the reason, the catalyst was my mother’s unexpected death from cancer, and the pain and suffering she endured at the hands of our NHS.
Until faced with such issues, we tend to remain relatively unaffected by media reports of ward over-crowding, long queues and waiting lists, abuse in care homes and so on. But this is happening to real people. Real people, in every town and city in the UK. I saw it in Newport’s own Royal Gwent Hospital. Elderly people being sent home to empty houses with no support or aftercare. The sick and injured people lying on floors in corridors and wards, because there were no beds or trollies. The nurse, bursting into tears, unable to offer a bed to my dying mother who was no longer able to sit upright on the chair in the waiting area. The ladies with no pillow cases or clean linen on their beds. The people who wet themselves because no one came when they buzzed. I saw it and was powerless.
But there was kindness too. I will never forget the nursing staff on the ward onto which we’d been pushed, on the occasion I had refused to take my mother home. They couldn’t give us a bed, but they made sure we were comfortable and gave us food and drink for the day. The staff on the Alzheimer’s ward, too, cheerfully chasing escaping patients, always showing kindness and respect.
These are the people whose stories I promised myself I would one day tell. I may not be the best writer in the world; my actors may not be the most experienced or classically trained; my crew may be young, inexperienced and have to work for the price of a pint. But goddammit, they are the most talented, committed and brave group of people I could hope to work with. Society may suck, but we care, and this is why Reality Theatre needs and values your support. Vive la revolution!
Our next production is based upon the issue of mental illness, a highly relevant topic today, with many suffering, or knowing someone who suffers from, some form of mental illness. Currently, it is estimated that one in four people in the UK suffers from some form of mental illness, with problems ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. This play explores the different attitudes displayed towards those suffering from bi-polar, but it also confronts the very idea of psychosis, a word that has the capacity to frighten us, yet often remains misunderstood.
My Condition and Me is an adaptation of our previous Halloween Nightmare (October 2016), an experimental piece of theatre utilising music and dance to express the inner torment of the lead character, as represented by the Manifestations and Creatures that plagued him. These Manifestations were given a symbolic ontology of their own, in an attempt to represent the reality of visual hallucinations as seen by those suffering such psychotic episodes.
For this forthcoming performance of My Condition and Me, we have omitted the experimental aspects and returned to a more traditional approach, as seen in our previous production of Waiting for Harry (July 2016). The lead role is played by our youngest member, Dean Morgan, 21, who brings a very raw and honest quality to the performance by drawing upon his own experiences with mental illness.
Our aim at Reality Theatre is not to educate or pass judgement, nor even to pass comment. It is simply to present…to present the issues that can affect each and every one of us, to present an image of what life is like for some within our own society.
If you wish to comment, share any thoughts or even your experiences of mental illness, then please use the contact page to get in touch. We welcome your input and feedback.
You can watch My Condition and Me on January 24, 2017, in the Pen and Wig, Stow Hill, Newport.