Many years ago, when I was writing a play about domestic violence I found a list on the internet titled something like “20 ways to know if you are being psychologically abused.” It was unpleasant reading, mainly because emotional abuse is often subtle and covert, and (for the one on the receiving end) imperceptible at first.
That said, in I Love You… But the signs were immediately evident (to me) as the young couple were in their early courtship. When Jez (Rafei Barakat) gives Chloe (Nia Powell) an unexpected gift of a silver necklace, the very act of putting it round her neck is potentially sinister.
Besides the other elements of controlling – keeping bank cards, passwords, phone (yes, this shit happens) – it was the psychological abuse that was most insidious.
The fact that Chloe allowed herself to be so easily ‘gaslighted’ made me question what had happened in her past to make her so malleable. Similarly, we are given little reason behind Jez’s behaviour, until at the play’s climax we see him in devastating torment.
For someone so controlling, his being out of control has two consequences.
First, it leads him to perform a catastrophic act; second, it secures the culture of victim-blaming and trauma that will plague his partner for years to come.
Woven throughout this storyline is Chloe’s after-story, where in her attempt to be a successful journalist, she is hampered by the behaviour of men around her, and, we must deduce, her past.
While there are some holes in the narrative, it should be noted that this is a piece of new writing devised by two of the cast-members (Lexi Powell and Katie Levett) and developed by the company, all of whom are students at ALRA South (Academy of Live and Recorded Arts.)
As work-in-progress, there is plenty of potential here. The actors have a natural style which suits the piece, and Elliott Cass does well to direct the small ensemble in one of those awful, pokey hotel-room venues that I’ve moaned about before.
When I produced my own play on this subject, some fourteen years ago, it was in connection with Amnesty International’s “Stop Violence Against Women” campaign. These issues remain pertinent and contemporary, so it’s quite right this show was on Amnesty’s longlist for their Freedom of Expression Award this year.
I Love You… But, Closed Door Theatre, theSpace on the North Bridge (V36) until August 25th, 2:35pm