Byron Youth Theatre have been busy researching, interviewing and surveying community members on issues around domestic violence for their latest production, called Broken.
Director Lisa Apostolides has engaged a local experienced actor, Sam Hemphill, to play the role of the person who commits various acts of domestic and family violence against her character and that of her ‘son’ in the production played by BYT member Seth Freeman. The rest of the youth cast play supporting roles that are also affected through various ways and means in this heart-wrenching, powerful production.
Cast member Brynn Davis-Hay answered some questions about the show for The Echo.
How do you see domestic violence affecting young people you know?
The cast created an online survey where young people and other community members could express views and share experiences of DV, and the results were quite alarming. Over half of the people who completed it had a direct experience of family violence. Because of this, some shared ‘I feel unsafe in the world, I have suffered from anxiety and depression since, I feel mentally scarred’.
Seventy-five per cent of those didn’t report the incident.
The majority recognised that domestic violence is a real issue in this region and many still didn’t know where to get help. In our development phase of the production we shared personal experiences as well as from peers we had talked to (not revealing names). It became clear that many young women were already experiencing kinds of DV in their relationships. This was not just heterosexual but also those who identify in the gay community. There seemed to be more pressure by young men on their partners to perform sexual acts which young women didn’t feel comfortable with but went along with it to ‘please’ their partners and more alarming to be accepted within female peer groups. We will probably include a scene about this directly in our PASH (Positive Adolescent Sexual Health) production next year as well. The impact of growing up with DV in a family context has long-lasting effects and we appreciated Lisa, our director, sharing some of her personal experiences (which she has given permission to share).
What did you know about DV before the project you did with the Byron Youth Theatre?
I knew it existed and was a media focus. That many people didn’t report it owing to fear, shame, and that it was often accepted as ‘normal’ for some people as they hadn’t experienced anything different.
What do you think are the biggest myths?
That it only happens in low-socioeconomic families; that is only happens males to females; that the gay community doesn’t experience it. That anger management courses can fix it.
What do you know now that would change the way you would act if you knew someone was at risk?
I know that there is a Women’s Resource Service in Mullumbimby; that people can be helped to stay at home and get the perpetrator to leave; that service providers are linked in a more efficient way in dealing with victims and young people. That there is a service at the Community Centre; and I already knew that Byron Youth Service is a safe place to go and get assistance. I feel empowered to assist someone in getting help and explaining that DV’s not okay.
How did you research the show?
We read newspaper articles that Lisa brought in to sessions, online articles, attended the domestic violence community matters Q&A – which was extremely informative, conducted an online survey, interviewed our peers. Lisa interviewed several key people in organisations such as OTCP and Blue Wren Foundation.
How do you tell the story?
This production is different. Lisa suggested we try a linear play instead of vignettes as we didn’t want to portray scene after scene of heavy DV experiences. We discussed all the real stories we had come across in our research and considered who was going to be in the cast. From there Lisa drafted a script that we workshopped over a few weeks, and she would make changes and bring them back to us. It is difficult because we realised we’re only able to tell one story; every experience is unique, so we had to accept that we couldn’t portray everything we originally wanted to. The characters in the play are all well defined and the DV incidents are full on. I like that we also cover teenage relationships, the complexities and how we can take on ‘roles’ in life owing to our past experiences.
How did it make you feel? Could you understand how it happens?
It is very easy to understand how it happens when you realise that it all stems from trauma. Those people committing acts of dv are acting out from past trauma. When you look back in history there has been so much trauma, each generation perpetuating it again and again unless there is someone who ‘wakes up’ to it and gets help. It is still very challenging to break from patterns but many people do and there are more and more great services to assist both people who commit and those who experience it. The production has been an amazing experience; I have learnt a great deal; it has been empowering and very moving. I love working in our company – it’s like a family, a very positive and supportive one!
Were you able to imagine yourself in the same situation?
My character is based on Kate from The Tempest. Although she doesn’t experience DV in the play she has been affected by past trauma and that has shaped her way of being. In the play she experiences a revelation with the help of her friends. I can relate to her.
What impact are you hoping your show has?
We really hope that audience members see how DV can have impacts on not only direct family members but also those connected to them. That is important for people to get help and that they each need support with it. It’s sometimes easy to judge from the outside when you don’t know all that is going on. We hope that people are moved to realise that they are responsible for their actions and words and that people can change given the love and support they need.
Local high school Year 10 and 11 students will view this performance in late November along with two public performances delivered on Wednesday 23 November at the Byron Theatre as part of a Public Act Theatre event, and on Sunday 27 November at the Drill Hall in Mullumbimby. 6.30pm.
Tickets on the door $15/$10 concession.
For more details contact [email protected] and check out www.facebook.com/ByronYouthTheatre.