Make Do and Mend started life in 2015 as an original verbatim play telling the real-life stories of women who had suffered & survived the trauma of Domestic Abuse. The characters depicted are based on 3 real women who were receiving support from the Just for Women Centre in Stanley, County Durham.
The script was created by conducting & transcribing interviews with these women, whilst many features of the set, costume & props were designed & made together with the women whose stories shaped the script. In particular, each actor’s chair was hand-customised by the woman whose character she plays. We are grateful to the Just for Women Centre for enabling this.
The play was initially piloted in 2015 with additional funding secured for development and a tour in 2016. Audience members told us the use of “real stories,” “true life events” & “real dialogue from victims” helped give them a new understanding of Domestic Abuse. The use of Verbatim Theatre was a crucial tool in providing the insight into the lived experience of survivors we felt to be an essential prerequisite to improving community & professional responses to victim-survivors of Domestic Abuse:
So why did we decide to make a film of our verbatim play?
During our 2016 tour, we also piloted using the play, together with a drama-based workshop as an educational tool for young people & as a training tool for Health & Housing professionals. As an arts-based education & training company, committed to provoking thinking around healthy relationships, we were keen to spread this valuable social impact as widely as possible. Achieving this with a stage play would be costly & pose a number of logistical challenges, which a filmed version of the play would overcome!
Students at Bishop Barrington School told us it was “life-changing” & that a key piece of learning they would take away was that, “You shouldn’t think this is OK.”
Professionals from Gentoo & Northumbria University Mental Health Student Nursing Association told us our play & workshop had given them an understanding of the links & early, small signs of abuse which can be identified, as well as an insight into useful ways of talking with survivors. Read about our Gentoo partnership here.
This brings us to 2018 & a fantastic experience with Wolsingham School students, who took part in a 4-week project with Artist and Assistant Director Polly Turner, creating a series of collaborative textile outcomes, alongside discussion, using the film of Make Do and Mend as a starting point for inquiry. Students were able to identify signs of Domestic Abuse, consider helpful & unhelpful responses to victims & explore healthy relationships all whilst making art, in an echo of the craft therapy setting where we gathered the testimonies that became the script.