Amnesty International advises that there are thousands of cases each day of women suffering physical, sexual and emotional abuse. For their campaign, Stop Violence Against Women and Girls, they commissioned a work from venerable and prolific Italian writer Dacia Maraini to help increase awareness of this appalling fact. The result, Hurried Steps, is an oratorio style enactment of stories compiled from reports and statements provided to Amnesty from around the world.
On stage, five actors (two men, three women) tell stories of abuse ranging through rape, discrimination, trafficking, forced marriage, honour killings and female genital mutilation from countries including Belgium, Italy, Jordan, UK, Mexico, Nigeria, Tibet and Albania. Maraini has written an additional story especially for this Australian production, bringing the total to ten.
Asked about performing such harrowing material, producer and cast member Olivia Brown admits “it is difficult for the actors – it’s very emotional and disturbing material”. At the same time, though, the experience is somewhat mitigated by the text.
“The writing is very beautiful…it’s very compassionate, beautiful images and beautifully expressed…I think it’s more moving than confronting.”
Each story has a central character played by one of the actors, while the other actors perform supporting roles. Although they are reading from scripts on music stands, Brown insists “it actually is quite animated, it’s very strong and emotional, powerful storytelling”.
The idea of the play is not just to expose the atrocities, but also to explore the reasons why.
“It’s never excusable, but it’s not without reason,” says Brown, describing the less examined motivations of the men who commit these acts – much of which stems from culture, ignorance, social pressure or even transference of their own past abuse.
The one hour performance is followed by a discussion session with an expert panel where audience members can ask questions, share thoughts and gain practical information on what they can actually do to help.
The writing is extraordinary and the message is imperative. (RB)
Nov 25 (11am + 2pm) + Nov 26 (2.30pm + 7.30pm) NIDA Playhouse, 215 Anzac Pde, Kensington. $24.50-$45.90.
Nov 27 (11am) New Theatre, 542 King St, Newtown. $27.
Tickets & info: www.hurriedstepsaustralia.com
BY RITA BRATOVICH