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Corn Exchange - Private Violence - Public Concern

11th March 2003.

This was the Newbury Weekly News review.

The abuse of power

Private Violence - Public Concern, at The Corn Exchange, on Tuesday, March 11

Commissioned by West Berkshire Council Domestic Violence Forum, this play by John Dunne was performed by Phoenix Productions before a large audience in The Corn Exchange last Tuesday morning.

The play covered many aspects of domestic violence without overloading or battering the audience into exhaustion. Actress Jane Dawes, playing the abused wife, said afterwards: "You can say things in a play which you can't say in a presentation".

We were shown powerful reasons why women stay in violent situations. In this country, two women are murdered by their partners every week. The subjective reflections of the woman were mixed with objective facts and figures, which might have been better left to a narrator.

When her husband (Mark Holliday) came in, we witnessed the emotional and physical abuse. Much of his bullying was through threats spoken in ignorance of the facts, and her ignorance made her believe them. However, she had found out about the help available, if she had the courage to take the first steps.

In a moving scene, we became privy to his own soul-searching and wishes for a better marriage, but as usual, he left to drown his sorrows in the pub, with mates whose marriages were not much better.

It remained for their daughter, Amanda, (in a convincing performance by Ali Birch) to reveal the impact on the children, hinted incest and the rape of her mother, heard from another room.

There followed a question-and-answer session, chaired by Amanda Palmer, in which eight members of the Domestic Violence Forum took part. They sat in a row below the front of the stage, dimly lit and barely heard, which was a pity as they must have had important and informative comments to make. More inaudible were the questions. It would have been more helpful if they had been on the stage where we could see them and a microphone used.

Domestic violence is a criminal act and this was a worthwhile exercise in bringing the subject into the open. A list of organisations that can help, with their telephone numbers, was printed on the back of the programme.