Writer: Aisha Zia
Music: Wojtek Rusin
Set Designers: Tim Mileusnic and Coco Banks
Director: Evie Manning and Rhiannon White
Reviewer: Vicki Taylor
Our Glass House by Common Wealth Theatre is sure to stay with you fora very long time. It’s resonant, sensitive and yet incredibly bold, an experience rather than just a performance.
It takes place in a council house in Thorpe Edge, a slightly worn out housing estate on the outskirts of Bradford. It has the danger to be invasive, of getting almost too close to people’s lives. Instead it makes the point that domestic violence can, and often does, happen around us without us even noticing.
After meeting in a pub car parkRhiannon White (Co-Director)Aisha Zia (Writer) walk the audienceto the house. Being left at the end of the street theaudience are given the house number and asked to open the front door. Itinstantly feels as if weare trespassing, not only into the house but into the whole neighbourhood, entering into a world where we aren’twelcome and hearing stories usually kept behind closed doors.
Each room holds a different character and is decorated in line with their stories; a piano clings to the ceiling of an elderly woman’s living room (Corinna Marlowe), a quiet Muslim mother (Bavinder Sopal) conceals escape plans in her dining room, a man (James Lewis) tries to admit his partner’s violence under a wave of wooden furniture. They deliver moving monologues, all testimonies from victims of domestic abuse.
The most poignant aspect of this piece is Charlie, a small boy played by Kyran Jobson. He is a constant witness to the other characters, almost a piece in a game. His presence moves one mother to tears; she says in the post show discussion that she wanted to gather him up and hug him.
The refreshing thing is that the piece doesn’t describe or really portray any physical violence, or focus purely on the suffering of women. With such sensitive subject matter it has the potential to make clichéd observations, or worse, be patronising. Instead it focuses on why people stay in abusive relationships and how they gather the strength to leave. At the end we all piled out onto the lawn to watch the pregnant Nicola (played by Liz Simmons) run into her car; it was genuinely emotional to see somebody escape the palpable tension of the house. Neighbours even watched the scene from their driveways, clapping along with the audience as she drove down the street.
There were surprisingly few regular theatre goers in the audience; it was predominantly police officers, social workers and local officials who could promote real change for victims of domestic violence.
Having seen countlessshows aiming to influence social change, this is the only one that has a chance of doing so.