Review: Between a Man and a Woman
Image: Etcetera Theatre
Millin Thomas - Tom
Jasmin Gleeson - Polly
Greg Arundell - Harry
Charlotte E Tayler - Tammy
Samantha Jacobs - Shelly/ Anna
Rosie Spivey - Chris/ Linda
Roisin Gardner - Siobhan
To the outside world, Polly and Tom seem to represent the normal married couple; successful, loving and happy.
But behind closed doors, not all is what it seems.
Polly's family and friends are constantly worried for her wellbeing and safety; claiming she has changed from the person she once was.
This fast paced drama centres Tom's suppressed emotional trauma and the affect it has on those around him and promises to be a thought-provoking and unforgettable evening of theatre that brings the issue of violence at home to the forefront and offers an unexpected and chilling new perspective to the issue.
A new and harrowing play focusing on the taboo subject of domestic violence and violence in the home; it questions as to whether we can fully know what goes on behind closed doors and between four walls.
Following successful runs at Waterloo East Theatre, Bread & Roses Theatre, Camden Fringe and a week at Etcetera Theatre, JamesArts Productions presents this harrowing and poignant drama.
Domestic abuse is an issue which deserves to be discussed more widely since it is still, sadly, prevalent in our society, causing victims immense misery, pain and, in some cases, their deaths.
In Scott James's play we are introduced to Tom and Polly.
On the face of it they seem like a normal young married couple.
But it isn't long before we discover friends and relatives starting to worry about Polly's health and well-being - for example, her sister notices Polly with a black eye which she explains away with a lie about bumping into the shower door.
As the play progresses, we find Tom exerting constant control over Polly in a variety of ways.
He belittles her, criticises her, stops her from pursuing a career, prevents her from going out, torments her and also subjects her to violence and, in one harrowing scene, rapes her.
For her part, Polly does all she can to cover up the abuse she is suffering, to hide her shame, to hope things will get better, but they don't.
All of this is described with considerable realism and authenticity, even if some of the scenes feel a little awkwardly handled.
Still, with violence and rape to portray, this is not an easy topic to present, and for the most part the cast handle the subject with sensitive conviction and emotional skill.
But the second half of the play raises some problematic issues as it starts to explore the causes of abuse, and the focus switches to an examination of Tom and his brother Harry's life when they were children and themselves victims of abuse at the hands of their father.
The problem with this sequence is that it starts to feel rather like an excuse for domestic abuse, ie that abusers are created by their own experience of being abused.
But, in fact, the majority of people who were abused as children, for example, do not go on to be abusive towards their partners or children in later life.
Reading some of the literature on domestic abuse, it seems fairly clear that it is a choice for the perpetrators - they choose to control and dominate their victims, rather than it being some kind of learned, automatic reaction.
Now the play may have been trying to dismiss this as a myth and, in fact, Polly seems to make that point near the end of the piece.
But the length of the scenes with Harry and Tom describing their father's abusive treatment of them loomed too dominantly in the proceedings, clouding the central issue of abusive control which had been fairly clearly described in the first half of the play.
In a similar way, I'm not sure that we needed to see the whole gamut of abuse ranging though verbal torment to actual bodily harm and rape.
It might have been enough to show the continual exertion of relentless, non-violent control which, for many victims, may well be the real cause of their continual anguish and suffering.
Between a Man and a Woman certainly proves absorbing and, at times, brutally poignant, but would benefit from a more subtle approach in depicting abusive control with less emphasis on spurious causation.
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