The powerful role of theatre in educating people on sexual and domestic violence and abuse is being demonstrated by a Drama student and alumni from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) today.
Calum Harris, Kirsty Murno and Edward Spence are performing a short piece at an awareness-raising conference organised by DMU’s Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence (SVDV) Research Network.
The conference is specifically aimed at highlighting the complex ways in which smaller coercive and controlling behaviours can contribute to situations of abuse, which are often overshadowed by physical and sexual assaults in the eyes of the law.
Based on the recent testimonies of survivors of domestic abuse, police officers and representatives from support organisations, the performance will stage the unheard voices of domestic abuse.
The students and alumni were supported by Written Foundations, a London-based theatre company run by theatre director Brigitte Adela and playwright and DMU alumna Natalie Beech.
Natalie, a Creative Writing and Journalism graduate, said: “We’ve been working with DMU recently on developing workshops for Drama students which explore documentary-style theatre driven by real-life stories. We hope that today’s dramatic performance will help to break up the academic focus of the conference by revealing the real people behind the statistics.”
Second year Drama Studies student Calum said: “It’s been really rewarding tackling an important issue like this, where so much more needs to be done to raise awareness. This has been a great way of broadening my horizons and learning from professionals in the sector. I definitely plan on taking up more opportunities like this, both within and outside of DMU.
Kirsty did a PG Diploma in Community Arts Practice at DMU and now works in a mental health setting, putting on drama performances with patients.
She said: “I was drawn to this opportunity as I’m really interested in how theatre can help shine a light on critical issues like this. I’m also interested in the concept of performing in unusual spaces and a conference setting is certainly not somewhere people might expect to find theatre.”
Creative Writing and Film Studies graduate Edward, who has wanted to act from a young age, said: “DMU helped me to develop my scriptwriting before I pursued my real passion and those skills have been very useful in leading me directly towards acting.
“I was at DMU with Natalie, so when she contacted me about this role I was very excited to contribute to a pressing issue which needs tackling in no uncertain terms.”
Roger Clegg, a Senior Lecturer in Drama at DMU, said: “This is just one example of the many opportunities we offer our students to work with professional practitioners, to develop both performance and employability skills, and to contribute in exciting ways to academic research.”
The conference taking place at DMU today - Coercion and Control: In the Commission of Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence and Abuse – is supported by Lord Bach, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and the charity United Against Violence and Abuse (UAVA).
Sarah Hilder, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Nottingham Trent University, and co-founder of DMU’s SVDV Research Network, said: "Whilst the impact of serious physical and sexual assaults may be broadly understood, the complex ways in which a series of smaller coercive and controlling behaviours can contribute to situations of abuse is often met with some dismissal and bewilderment by professionals, perpetrators and even survivors.
“Drama is a powerful medium which serves to prompt some deeper reflections on the day to day experiences of real people's lives."