What If? An interactive exploration of violence against women. By Lydia Longman

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1 What If? An interactive exploration of violence against women. By Lydia Longman 1

2 A Note... The following is a scripted version of an interactive psychodrama, based on true events. It follows some inspiration from Augusto Boal s Theatre of the Oppressed work in Brazil (and across the world) where communities, or affected parties, are encouraged to step in and see how they would do things differently. This could be through direction, like the characters, and below, or stepping into the scene as one of the characters. This could be performed as is, various scenarios are scripted out,, and could even step in and take the place of in the scene. However, this could also be facilitated with the audience, encouraging them to think actively, and offer suggestions as to how they might act in the situation. For more of an impact, audience members could take s role and see if they could influence the action. This would have to be facilitates incredibly carefully and sensitively, of course. This piece of theatre deals with themes of sexual assault and violence, for more information on these topics and for advice if you are affected by the themes, visit: The lights go up on a club scene. Four characters stand aside watching. It s packed and the lights and music are pumping. Scene One. works his way through the crowd to, he starts dancing closer and closer. Eventually he is grinding his body on hers, she turns away in an attempt to deter him but he takes this an encouragement. He grabs her hips and pulls her closer. She pushes his hands off and tries to move away. He is deeply offended by her rejection and grabs her again, this time more forcefully. She struggles and tries to stamp on his foot. ANDY steps in, puts himself between the and. swings and punches ANDY square in the face. ANDY falls to the ground. The crowd rush around him to attend. grabs and drags her away from the crowd. She kicks and screams but the music is loud and everyone is distracted. 2

3 starts to force himself on but she resists. Frustrated and angry, pushes her to the ground and then kicks her until she lays limp. He walks away, almost casually. Freeze. Go back to when he grabs her at the club. Scene Two. The actors reset themselves. Ok, can we try it if she just dances away from him? But she could, like, make light of it and sort of laugh it off? The scene begins in the same way. grabs firmly by the hips, she keeps dancing away and he keeps following her. She turns around and gives him a mock-stern look. ANDY looks over and gives her a thumbs up to check she s ok. shrugs and smiles. ANDY (Shouting over the music) I m just going to grab a drink! You want anything? Ok, um, no thanks! ANDY leaves and keeps dancing with, she keeps laughing and batting him away playfully. Eventually he takes her hand and pulls her away from the crowds. Her rejections become more and more forceful, but she tries to keep laughing it off. C mon, don t be a tease. I know you want it. Um, no, haha, sorry, not today, I think I d like to go back in, my friend will be worries about me. He won t even notice you re gone. C mon. She continues to reject him and she continues to resist until he pushes her to the ground and kicks her until she s limp. 3

4 (Angry) Don t be such a cock tease. He storms off. Ok, freeze, that didn t work, why not? I guess he wouldn t accept a firm no after she was laughing and playing with him. But no means no, he should have accepted it when she said it. Of course, but she didn t start off that way and he took that as enough encouragement to force it. What if she was really firm and clear from the beginning? Can we go back to the bit where he first dances up to her? Scene Three. The actors reassemble. They start dancing. This time, what if she tried just out right saying no, as soon as he touches her? The music plays at full volume. dances up to and his body eventually touches hers. (Shouting over the music) Excuse me, I don t like that. (Also shouting over the music) What? I said I don t like that, please don t touch me like that. What? I m just dancing. 4

5 Well go do it somewhere else. It s making me feel uncomfortable. You re in a club, you re wearing a tiny dress, you re beautiful, it s packed, what do you expect? Well I um Freeze! She needs to stick to her guns. It feels rude. Who cares? (To the actress) You can do it, be firm. (The actress nods at ) Ok. (To ) Look, I don t like the way you are touching me, or the way you re making me feel. Please shove off. Get lost. I m not interested. Whatever, you slut. (He pulls her close to him and pulls her outside) If you didn t want this kind of attention, you shouldn t dress so slutty. You ve got a beautiful figure, fantastic boobs, I m just trying to pay you a compliment. (He tries to kiss her but she struggles and pushes him away.) Stop it! No means no. (Nervously) Anything else is rape. Are you calling me a rapist? What? I m just trying to be friendly. You re touching me in a way I don t want to be touched. Please, let me go. Whatever, you re not worth it. (He pushes her to the ground, she tries to get up but he pushes her again.) You re not even that pretty, just got nice tits. Scene Four. 5

6 Freeze! This is awful, what ever she does, he s just twisting it round to end the way he wants it to. Isn t that the whole point? What if he had to listen to another man? What if Andy stepped in earlier, like right at the beginning? Let s go again then, from when he first approaches her. The actors start dancing again, this time, when gets close, pulls ANDY over close. tries to put his hands on her. Sorry, no thanks, I m dancing with my friend. They try to move to a different part of the dancefloor. (Muscling in) Oh he won t mind, will you? ANDY No means no dude, leave her alone. Get out my way. (ANDY doesn t budge) I said get out the way. ( punches ANDY and he falls to the ground. The crowd rushes around but slips out with ) Freeze. (The actors freeze.) We know where this bit goes. Why doesn t she call out, why doesn t anyone see and help her? What would they do? He s huge and he just punched a guy to the floor. Can we try it? The actors resume the action. (She kicks and screams.) Help! Please someone help me! Help! Arrr! 6

7 One member of the crowd stops and turns around. They stare straight at and they lock eyes for a moment. Please! Help me stop him. The crowd member is frozen and just watches as pulls out of sight. They make as though they were about to move or say something, look around, everyone is distracted by ANDY. The crowd member starts to follow, stops, looks around, and goes to check on ANDY. Freeze. Please, stop. Ok, that didn t work. He s not going to listen to him, he s just his friend, what if they told the bouncer and got him to kick the guy out? The scene restarts. Scene Five. Excuse me? The bouncer nods. Um, there s a guy bothering me, on the dancefloor, he keeps grabbing me and trying to touch me. BOUNCER It s just dancing sweetheart. It s a club, what do you expect? I guess if you don t like it, you can leave. Yeah, but he s like all I dunno, I ve just got a really bad feeling about it, it s really uncomfortable. BOUNCER I m sorry love, but he s not actually doing anything wrong. looks over her shoulder and the beckons to her. He dances towards her and puts his arm around her. 7

8 Scene Six. Stop. Sorry, I can t watch the ending again. Ok, there was no help from the bouncer. I guess he s right though, in that they could just leave or go somewhere else. What? She shouldn t have to leave because someone else is acting badly, he s the one who s doing something wrong, he should leave, or be made to leave! Yeah, you re totally right. But he s not going anywhere, is he? Yes, they shouldn t have to move just because there s some idiot at the club, but if a situation s making you feel that uncomfortable, and some guy is determined to be violent towards you, then you should just get out that situation. Right? At least then you re safe, and in control. That s exactly what Chelsea decided too, so that s what she and Andy did, they just got up and left. Yeah? Yes, he made his advances, she pushed him away, he persisted, and so she and and Andy went home. There you go then! Let s do that. Let s just do what actually happened. The actors reassemble and start the scene from the beginning again. This time, when the bothers, she and ANDY leave the club and start to walk home together. The follows them out, he punches ANDY until he lies unconscious. starts to run but grabs her and pulls her back. He s aggressive, violent, forcing himself on her. She struggles and pushes back, calls out for help, tells him to stop. He punches her in the stomach. She folds over and falls down. He kicks her, over and over until her body is limp. Then he kicks her again. walks away. Silence. 8

9 (Quietly) That s what really happened? I m afraid so. They were both hospitalised, they both needed stitches and she needed treatment for internal bleeding. But that s... awful. She did everything right. What else could they have done? If someone is bothering you, absolutely inform authority figures, cry out for help, be firm and tell them no. Don t worry about looking stupid or offending them. Make your boundaries clear and try and stay in a public place. But, if someone has this intent, only they are in a position to change that outcome. We need to shift focus from what could they have done and direct that spotlight of attention to the attackers. We need to place the responsibility so firmly on them, shine the light of scrutiny so brightly, that they have no shadow in which they can hide. Repeat the scene, but this time, when dances away, turns around and dances somewhere else. 9

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