Writer: Sarah McDonald Hughes (based on the memoir by Andrea Ashworth)
Director: Martin Gibbons
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
The Public Reviews Rating:
A thoughtful and affecting adaptation of Andrea Ashworth’s memoir, this production of Once In A House On Fire is a deft three-hander about a family of womens’ experiences of domestic violence seen through the eyes of Andrea, the eldest child. After the death of their father, Andrea and Laurie are subjected to their mother’s new husbands, both of whom are variously violent, controlling and cruel. Concerned for their mother’s physical and mental well being, the girls try to make her life as easy as possible with Andrea often taking on the responsibility of caring for her younger sisters, Laurie and baby Sarah. Fiercely intelligent and loyal, she excels in school despite frequent days off for hospital trip and injuries, sacrificing her childhood in the face of adversity.
The play makes you aware the impact of abuse on three generations of a family of women and its far-reaching consequences. With an all-female cast the abusive characters are relegated to the shadows, allowing the audience to learn about their behaviours by observing the conversations of the girls and their mother. Devastating and all too real, the piece highlights many of the reasons and excuses made by victims for both continuing to stay in violent relationships and repeating the cycle with several partners.
As mum Lorraine, Francesca Waite plays these conflicting emotions well, leaving and returning to her abusers and putting her girls in harms way in spite of herself. She tells them “I’ve lost the knack of being my own person”, a result of the steady destruction of her self esteem that means she feels she is “nothing by meself”. Rachel Austin gives a sterling performance as Laurie, convincingly playing through from a small child to young adult, and Sarah McDonald Hughes is truly outstanding as Andrea, a girl trapped by the choices of the adults in her life.
Until 25th AugustEdinburgh Fringe: Once In A House On Fire – Northern Stage @ St Stephen’s,
Tags: 2012, Andrea Ashworth, domestic violence, Edinburgh Fringe, Francesca Waite, Lois Maskell, Manchester, Martin Gibbons, Monkeywood Theatre, Northern stage, Once in a House on Fire, Rachel Austin, Sarah McDonald Hughes, St Stephen’s, Theatre