Festival of New Theatre
This summer, The Questors Theatre, a community-based theatre in Ealing, has welcomed new voices and plays to the stage, providing a platform for emerging writers and theatre makers to showcase their work. New talented voices have been given the unique opportunity to present one-act plays that represent diverse ideas, particularly those in society that may be unrepresented. The first of these, On Me, takes place on a fictional TV set, exploring current issues of gender-based violence.
Shona and Christian are in a dysfunctional relationship. Shona is distressed and fearful of her partner Christian, a violent sexual offender. The scenes acted out as part of the TV show depict a real-life victim and perpetrator. Through these scenes, it allows a wider audience to consider the society we live in and ways to keep themselves safe.
Both actors are compelling in their delivery of this sensitive and at times, uncomfortable material, successfully highlighting the need to keep ‘safe’ in society. Dating is portrayed as complex and Shona’s deleting of Tinder early on in the performance helps reinforce the harsh reality around the tribulations of finding sincere romantic connections in the modern world.
The Studio space at the Questors gives us a modest black box set, with minimal props, with just a white sofa positioned in centre stage. It enables the message of the play to be heard clearly, without the distraction of set changes. Sixty minutes without an interval feels the right length for this play. The content is intense, so an hour is just enough to draw one in and hold our attention to understand the content and move in time with the pace of the story. Any longer and the intensity risks becoming overwhelming.
Through Caroline Lamb’s writing, Shona’s execution of this dark but current topic is magnanimous. She reluctantly views the tapes of a rape victim who she is characterising in preparation for the scenes she will film as part of the fictional TV set. It is evident she feels the burden of the victim’s experiences, and the responsibility in exhibiting the emotional turmoil in her performance in order to do the scenes justice. She is clearly impacted by the victim’s story, as well as her own trauma, which is intertwined to create powerful, hard-hitting points. She mentions having trauma, but that ‘every girl has’, a statement that provides the audience with food for thought. It’s mentioned almost frivolously, as if no attention need paying to this remark, yet it is intended to capture the attention alluding to the true seriousness of the comment.
Societal pressures are placed on both men and women and forming romantic connections is harder now than ever to have certitude in, as society is disposable, and trust and safety become primary concerns. The performance did the subject matter justice, and it was an hour well spent. The audience around me appeared to have been equally moved by the play, as evident by the huge applause at the close.
On Me is a powerful play exploring domestic violence through an unusual and interesting frame of re-enacting true life experiences of a victim on a fictional TV set. It addresses its topics head on and makes for a strong opener for this Festival of New Theatre.
Written by: Caroline Lamb
On Me (Festival of New Theatre) plays at Questors Theatre until 22 July. Further information and bookings can be found here.