Gritty Fringe play lifts lid on domestic abuse

Scenes from the critically-acclaimed Our Glass House. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Scenes from the critically-acclaimed Our Glass House. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A ground-breaking play is raising the issue of domestic abuse with Fringe audiences, lifting the lid on the violence suffered in secret every day in Scotland.

The audience – allowed to roam around the nondescript Wester Hailes home – is confronted with scenes so violent Scotland’s top police chief, Stephen House, has said: “If we could show this to every officer and member of our support staff I don’t think we would really need to say much more”.

In the bathroom a young woman gasps for air before her head is plunged back under the water filling the bath. Downstairs, a pensioner describes how she lost two teeth, while a pregnant woman climbs through the kitchen window and a woman asks in Punjabi why family honour matters more than the horrendous abuse her husband subjects her to.

Our Glass House, which showcases six violent vignettes, is an on-site production exploring the hidden realities of domestic violence. Audience numbers are limited to 30 at each performance, but those who do bear witness will have difficulty forgetting what they have seen and experienced, says director Evie Manning of the Common Wealth Theatre.

She has brought the production to the Capital after critically-acclaimed runs in Bradford and Bristol. She first got the idea for the piece after discovering her own neighbour and her children had been suffering horrendous abuse.

She said: “Her husband kept the house whilst they went into a refuge, and no-one on the street spoke about it again. It seemed so unjust, and I was shocked at how taboo the issue was, even today. We want to encourage people to speak out and to not feel ashamed.”

The hard-hitting play forces its audience right into the middle of the horrors as it explores many aspects of domestic violence against women, men and children, and looks at the reasons why people stay in dangerous environments.

Evie continued: “We’ve allocated a proportion of the tickets specifically for people in the area and we have local school groups coming. Many people are very affected by what they see, so we have representatives of domestic violence charities on hand to help us with a discussion afterwards. Very often, audience members will discuss their own experiences, sometimes for the first time ever, which is extremely moving.”

Recent figures show that in Edinburgh alone, police deal with more than 100 incidents of domestic violence every week – more than five times as many as robberies and other serious assaults combined.

However, the problem is likely to be much worse, as it is estimated only a quarter of victims ever report the abuse they suffer to the police.

The Evening News recently revealed the number of violent partners reported to the Crown Office has more than doubled since April after domestic abuse was made a “major 
priority” by Police Scotland.

Our Glass House, funded by the Scottish Government, Edinburgh City Council and police, will be performed from today until August 25. Tickets can be bought at Summerhall.