Nineteen young people learned about violence against women through a special performance of ‘Maryland’, written by award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Lucy Kirkwood.
Newham Council’s Youth Empowerment Service – part of its Brighter Futures scheme – invited the group of youngsters to see the play which took place at Theatre Royal Stratford East on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th November, with a cast including former EastEnders star Tamzin Outhwaite.
Lucy Kirkwood, who was born and raised in east London, felt compelled to write the play following the killings of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, which sparked a movement to eradicate violence against women.
“This play was for many years a private conversation with myself. The horrific murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa this year have galvanised me into making it public.
I hesitate to even call it a play when it is simply a howl, a way of expressing what I feel about a culture of violence against women, but I am sharing it because I wonder if it might express a little of what other people feel about it too.
I want to put a stick in it and shake it and make that wasp nest more angry. The gesture of this is to ask why we are not more angry.”
After watching ‘Maryland’, Zahra Maalow, senior youth worker at Newham Council, said: “This play gave an opportunity for discussion and debate about this important issue. It also encouraged young people to open up and voice their concerns.”
Youth worker Joshua Anyanwu, who also facilitated discussions after the performance, described it as “insightful, thought-provoking and challenging”.
He added: “Sounds symbolising a woman going through pain were difficult to hear and had a profound effect on the group. They really understood the importance of the play.”
One of the young people, Ella, expressed her concern that some perpetrators of violence against women are in positions of power when “they are supposed to protect us”.
Fellow group member Bynum added: “This play showed how the feelings and concerns of victims are sometimes ignored.”
Brandon said men need to “change in our approach to this issue”, while Keb encouraged more men to go and see the play.
Another youth worker, Sureyya Demetriou, said: “Young people left the performance with an abundance of emotions while feeling inspired to speak out against gender-based violence.”
‘Maryland’ Co-Director, Vicky Featherstone said;
“We all live in the same world, hear the same news, share the same existential fears and longings. Some people specialise in tending to our health, and some people tend to our roads and buildings, and some people tend to the food we eat and some people teach us to read and write and some people move important things from a to b. And then there are some other people who sit in the same world as us but with their pattern of words and ideas show that world back to us in a way which momentarily stops us feeling so alone, so fearful, so lost. There is order. There is hope. This is what this tiny enormous play does. This is what the Royal Court is for. This is what art is for. We are so proud to be stepping up. We are devastated we still have to.”
Photo courtesy of Brighter Futures.