INTERVIEW: Luca Rutherford | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Camilla Greenwell

Luca Rutherford returns to her past, not as therapy – she did that on her own time – but to contemplate the intersection of power that exists in moments of traumatic violence. “I had never been so powerless but so powerful.” Engulfed in intense fear, Luca felt herself resorting to learned behaviours, instinctively leaning towards doing anything the man attacking her said. “But something in my body felt out of control and was just saying no. I’m going to hold myself and take up as much space as I can. I won’t apologise for not being obedient or polite…I chose to scream”.

You Heard Me is a one-woman play about Luca escaping rape by refusing to stay silent. As we talk about the timeliness of the play, in the wake of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa’s murders, unbeknownst to us, that morning Ashling Murphy was attacked and killed while out on a run in Ireland – the same situation Luca herself was in. “There’s a version where I’m not here. I’m telling this story because I can.” She exclaims.

You Heard Me may be a one-woman play but it’s held up and sustained by a team of female and non-binary creatives and has been made in conjunction with You Heard Us, a photography project that includes 44 women and their own experiences. “I’m not trying to speak for anyone else, that feels dangerous. The show can only tell my story because it’s the only thing I have.” The photography project makes the personal political by blowing up the women’s faces in public spaces. It represents the range of trauma, but that every woman’s experience is underlined by recognition.

I’m not trying to speak for anyone else, that feels dangerous. The show can only tell my story because it’s the only thing I have

Contending with the personal and the political can be difficult. Luca contemplates her intersectional feminism and beliefs whilst not invalidating her trauma. “It’s bullshit that we have this hierarchy of trauma because it undervalues every woman.” At this point, the interview becomes a back-and-forth conversation between women, we’re tied to each other through shared experience and everything is familiar. This is the power of Luca’s story. “It’s not like I’m only letting women in, it’s for everyone because I think we can all connect to how we can keep ourselves small. But this is about women taking up space.”

You Heard Me isn’t an attempt to bring people down; care underlines everything Luca discusses. “I didn’t want to rehash any trauma on stage and I don’t want to traumatise the audience. From the beginning, the question was always ‘how are we making sure the team and the audience are safe’.” Luca will not regurgitate her escape on stage, instead, a voice-over will play out the details of her attack.

I don’t want to perform a show that is heavy and lacking joy, but I also don’t want it to be jokes all around. There will be some dark stuff, but it’s about being a complicated and messy human, which can be funny.” For Luca, her trauma has been transposed into a celebration of art and creativity: “This hasn’t been made in isolation. It’s all about community, listening and resilience. About connecting to your voice and power.”

Luca acknowledges the time it has taken for her to get to this point, it’s been hard. But now she asks: “How do we find moments of celebration along the way?”

You Heard Me by Luca Rutherford is performed at ARC, Stockton on Wednesday 16th-Thursday 17th February and Northern Stage, Newcastle on Friday 18th-Saturday 19th February.

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