As the ‘Me Too’ campaign still bombards international news and social media, Gilded Balloon and Tikapa Productions’ extraordinary piece Not in Our Neighbourhood displays the devastating and never-ending cycle of misery that sexual harassment, domestic abuse and violence can impose on women’s lives. The piece is based in a women’s refuge, a place where women who have suffered domestic abuse and violence can stay for safety and recovery.
What makes this play unique is that only one actress (Kali Kopae) performs multiple roles: several victims living in the shelter, the staff running the shelter and the woman interviewing them. At first, this unusual and unfamiliar method of acting takes time to get used to, as Kopae has conversations with imaginary characters. However, Kopae’s impressive acting skill makes it easy to distinguish between each character she plays once the audience understands each characters’ individual mannerisms. Kopae’s multiple roles are very effective in portraying how the shocking trauma the victims have endured controls their physicality and mood. In particular, Kopae plays the character of Kat, a rape victim, very convincingly. She effectively uses body language and dialogue to demonstrate the wide-ranging effect the incident has had on her life: from her posture to her pessimism. Kat’s story was especially moving, as it displayed how domestic violence is often a taboo in society as none of her friends or family believed her story.
In the context of domestic violence or abuse, it is a common misconception that women should simply leave their husbands to escape. Nevertheless, Not in Our Neighbourhood confirms that many factors must be accounted for in such situations, for example their husbands reputation when leaving, or what their husband may do when they leave him. The piece gives an example of one character’shusband who follows her to the safe house to try and make peace and reunite in order to save his reputation. This displays how persistent and cruel violent husbands or partners can be.
I believe that Not in Our Neighbourhood explored many different new, interesting and important ideas regarding sexual harassment, domestic abuse and violence. The subject of the piece meant that some scenes were very shocking to the audience. There was constant switching between these shocking stories which occasionally left the audience with little time to fully appreciate their gravity, perhaps undermining the point of the piece to some extent.
It was unsurprising but also disappointing that there was no mention of the fact that there can be male victims of domestic abusesexual harassment or violence. Although victims of domestic violence are more often women than men, I think it would have been important for the piece to recognise that men can be victims of domestic abuse and violence too.
Despite this, Gilded Balloon and Tikapa Productions deserves a great deal of respect and encouragement, as Not in Our Neighbourhood puts a light on issues that need to be addressed more honestly and openly by the general public. Their brilliantly forthright play is another stepping stone to a more united front against sexual harassment, domestic abuse and violence.
Not in Our Neighbourhood
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, Venue 76
18th – 26th August
Photo Credit: Tikapa Productions