Stories to Heal Violence

Athenaeum Building, The Octagon, Dunedin

16/03/2017 - 18/03/2017

Dunedin Fringe 2017

Production Details

This collection of stories originates from people’s narratives of their childhoods and their experiences of family violence and transformation points. This production will look at how changes are always possible and de-myth the idea that those who are experiencing family violence are ‘bad people’.

Dunedin has a high rate of family violence and we wish to highlight the changes that each client has experienced in an honest and artistically creative portrayal, which helps to plant the seed that as a community we can support each other in creating change. This project will honour the stories told by real people and their bravery in wanting not only to change, but to make a difference for their children, families and wider community.

Presented by Stopping Violence Dunedin.

Verbatim , Theatre ,

60 minutes

Heart-breaking, vulnerable, strong, and uplifting

Review by Kimberley Buchan 17th Mar 2017

Stories to Heal Violence are the stories of people who have taken part in the Stopping Violence Dunedin course. It is an extremely courageous piece of verbatim theatre. The people represented on stage have been brave enough to share their life experiences of anger, violence, hurt and the incredible journey that they have been through to overcome these things.

This is the purest piece of community theatre that I have ever seen. It delves right to the heart of the matter and tells the tales we need to hear. It takes experiences that are all too common in our society and treats them with empathy and compassion.

Often perpetrators of violence are shamed but the way creators – Francis Kewene, Tarn Felton and Cinnamon Boreham – deal with the subject acknowledges the humanity of everyone involved and shares the conviction that anyone, no matter what they have done, can heal. The ethos of the Stopping Violence Dunedin project is showcased and it is inspirational. 

I am at first concerned about the venue. Every piece of verbatim theatre I have seen had been placed in very intimate theatres and performance spaces and this seemed a necessary part of the strong bond with the audience that verbatim theatre forges. If there is one thing the Athenaeum is, it is not intimate. However, on the opening night of Stories to Heal Violence this does not seem to matter as the audience is breathless and spellbound as the narrative unfolds.

Witnessing people open up and share the most taboo parts of their life, own them and show the strength they have gained is a powerful thing. As this is verbatim theatre, the knowledge that these are real people and real experiences makes it even more compelling.

The performers were well chosen. Each actor is more concerned with expressing the truth of their character rather than putting on a performance. Matawai Uitime-Nicolls plays a caring Cinnamon who is not afraid to call people out if need be. Brook Patrick Bray plays the man of few words, John. Donna Thompson is the insightful Janine. Emere Leitch-Munro plays a feisty survivor known as Sandy. Francis Kewene plays a pensive Karl. Sean Martin is the more verbose Donald. (It should be noted that the names of the characters in the program are pseudonyms, as Dunedin is a small community with only two degrees of separation.)

Each of these fine actors has a natural acting style and the way each implements this shows true regard for the people they are depicting. At times the fidgeting on stage does draw the eye away from the current speaker, but it is true real people don’t sit still and allow a dramatic focus in a group discussion. The authenticity of the actors becomes even more evident when they step out of character and become themselves for the open forum post show.

The audience speak back to what they have just experienced. The acknowledgement from the audience is overwhelmingly filled with respect and gratitude for the important work being done onstage and in the agencies that supported it. There is a great deal of pride for the success that has been achieved.

This show is in turns heart-breaking, vulnerable, strong, and uplifting as it ends with hope. All the people involved are embracing the power to change and showing us all that it is possible to change and to hope.


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