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  • Miles Hedley


Domestic violence continues to blight our society despite the best efforts of law-makers, high-profile campaigns and public outrage. Yet it’s a subject few people truly understand unless they have been either a victim or a perpetrator.

Choreographer Rhiannon Faith is trying to change that with her new work Smack That (A conversation) which plays at the Ovalhouse till March 16.

With the help of dramatist Lou Cope and six performers who have all been on the sharp end of violent relationships, she has created a piece that really brings home the nightmare of abusive partners and/or families.

Using an apparently jolly party as a framework, the six performers - Rebekah Dunn, Valerie Ebuwa, Yukiko Masai, Maddy Morgan, Kim Quillen and Casey Tohill – told their stories in a series of dance and spoken word sequences that began frivolously enough but soon became dark. And then darker still.

Several rounds of immersive and increasingly bleak party games revealed that many members of the audience had themselves been victims of domestic violence.

And the horrifying extent of abuse in Britain was exposed by official statistics that were read out during a game of pass the parcel.

As an older man who has no first-hand experience of domestic violence, I was humbled by the courage of both the performers and audience – and grateful for my own lot in life.

Faith and her creative team have done a public service with this remarkable work. It could so easily have been sententious to the point of sanctimoniousness. Yet the warmth, wit, solidarity and heart-stopping honesty of both the writing and the performances gave it a humanity that was nothing less than inspirational. Please see it.

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