A sheep gives you milk and wool – what use is a girl…
Unpleasant subject matter at The Cockpit today as part of the Arts of Wellbeing festival organised by Westminster Arts to look at how creativity can enrich life. It includes workshops for people with dementia, origami lessons, but also features disturbing plays that tackle a range of issues including discrimination.
New Shoes Theatre performed Hurried Steps (Passi Affrettti) by Italian playwright and Nobel Prize nominee Dacia Maraini. (Irrelevant fact – today (November 13th) is her birthday). Translated into English by Sharon Wood, Hurried Steps is a powerful hour, based on testimonies from real women about their experiences of abuse. The play will also be performed at The Civic Centre in Brent on 25th November. If you go, be warned, some of the stories are horrific.
The stage is set with five music stands in a line, facing the audience at the back of the small stage. An actor stands behind each of these, reading their part of the script. Three women enclosed by two men, the actors occasionally sitting down when they are not needed in a particular scene.
A man who hits doesn’t normally kill…
The stories of eight women are told, with the actors taking different roles in each vignette. Each story is inspired by facts reported by Amnesty International and covers subjects from the imprisonment of rape victims in China to the attempted burning to death of a pregnant Nigerian girl by her own family. But this is not something that only happens outside the West. Stories are also set in Italy, Wales and California, demonstrating the ubiquity of such violence. No one can say it wouldn’t happen here.
With the choreography limited to occasionally sitting down and standing up, the actors’ voices have to do most of the work. With five actors playing a multitude of parts accents are often used to differentiate the characters. At times this grates with the seriousness of the subject matter – a cod-French example being the worst offender. There is no light relief, but the cast do a great job in keeping the audience’s attention throughout. Particular mention would go to Eugenia Caruso and Joseph Kpobie for bringing a frightening reality to several of their parts, but Emma Dennis-Edwards, Mariam Haque and Samuel Young all contributed well to the performance.
Hurried Steps is being performed around the world to open a debate about violence towards women and girls. It will certainly achieve that aim amongst those who see it. Both the author and the translator contribute their royalties to women’s domestic abuse services.
UK National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247