STAGE REVIEW: SMACK THAT (A CONVERSATION) @ GOSFORTH CIVIC THEATRE, NEWCASTLE (24.05.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Foteini Christofilopoulou

Theatre maker and choreographer Rhiannon Faith’s dance theatre show is not for the fainthearted. 

Performed in the round, with audience participation at its core, it’s a celebration of survival; a safe space where an all-women cast of non-performers and dance artists take on the persona of ‘Beverly’ or ‘Bevs’, as she’s known to her friends, to convey their real-life experiences of abuse.

Set within a raucous house party with balloons, streamers and a table piled high with popcorn and sweets, the atmosphere is playful and joyous. Dressed in silver wigs and sparkly mini dresses, the ‘Bevs’ issue stickers and nicknames and suddenly we’re all ‘Bevs’ together. My nickname was ‘Stripey Bevs’ if you’re wondering.

Audience participation gets underway with Pass the Parcel. The party taking a darker turn when each layer is ripped off to reveal shocking facts about domestic violence. One in four women experience domestic abuse, and in England and Wales a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every three days.

Throughout the show, the cast of ‘Bevs’ – all survivors – are miraculous and inspiring. Presenting their own stories of coercion and abuse. Segueing into powerful dance sequences, some brutal and harrowing. Others, intimate moments of unity and support.

With graphic depictions of abuse, confessional party games, audience members acknowledging their own experience of abuse, Faith’s show is an intense affair and I can’t deny at moments I felt like a gate crasher at a counselling session. But it achieved what it set out to and I left considering my awareness well and truly raised.

Thankfully, it leaves behind a lasting legacy at the venues it tours. Staff are trained by the cast to recognise signs of domestic abuse and Gosforth Civic Theatre is now a J9 Venue – a safe place for victims to seek help – and hopefully, like the ‘Bevs’, become survivors. 

 

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