Content warning: Mention of sexual assault and harassment
This evening of solidarity at Bedlam Theatre was an important and powerful event, organised by the Edinburgh University Theatre Company. This one hour piece of verbatim theatre recounted the stories of people across the globe and their experiences of sexual discrimination, harassment and assault. On entering the auditorium, we were met with the 14 speakers on stage with their scripts open in their hands. Once the performance started, we were left with the house lights slightly on. The speakers maintained for the most part a neutral tone, which only allowed a little expression or personality through. All of this nailed home the fact that this was not a theatrical spectacle but that those on stage were simply conduits for us to hear the real stories that had been sent in over the last few months.
Every now and then, a performer would take to the mic with the call: “We need to talk”, at which point the audience would follow with the response: “We’re listening”. This small involvement was enough. If you were not already identifying with any of the experiences described, you were encouraged to interact with them, and every single story was one that either marked the hope we have for progression away from sexual discrimination, harassment or assault, but also the serious situations that we are all put in today, whether that is someone targeted, or walking home alone.
The stories, whether you have experienced something similar or not, ranged from those of children or university students, to those in retirement, and were accounts from those of all genders and sexualities. The creative director, Stella Green, introduced this evening as an event “about us making an agreement […] not to accept this in silence” and every response of “we’re listening” allowed us to show how we too no longer accept any of the sexual discrimination, harassment and assault in silence.
Following the growing support behind campaigns such as #timesup, #metoo and a multitude of others addressing the discrimination, harassment and assault that has been allowed in so many industries up to this point, the EUTC’s confident step towards opening a dialogue in their own theatre is an empowering move and they should be commended for embracing the discomfort that comes from facing such issues.
The final spoken account ended with “thank you for listening”. This signified not only the closing of the show, but represented a larger response to the evening which allowing survivors to have their stories told anonymously, bravely, and be heard.
This was undoubtedly a necessary evening from the EUTC, where voices, some of which had been too afraid to ever speak out before, were given a platform. One hopes that the EUTC will find more opportunities to organise such evenings of solidarity in the future, as it has potential to become a valuable asset to Bedlam’s community.
‘We Need to Talk’
Image: Rosie Barry