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Award-winning play returns to local stage ‘to promote positive change’

On Me explores gender-based violence, how it turns people’s lives upside down and how it affects them in their daily interactions with others
On Me credit Shay Rowan

When a new piece of writing has the power to reach an audience, change hearts and minds and offer you the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes, its effect lasts way longer than the show’s run time.

Caroline Lamb’s play On Me explores gender-based violence, how it turns people’s lives upside down and how it affects them in their daily interactions with others. It invites audiences to make a difference and push for change.

The play won the Off West End award for the Greater Manchester Fringe in 2022. Following its success at the festival, the play is returning to the stage.

We caught up with Caroline to find out more.

Where did you get the idea to write this piece?

The massive and unwavering popularity of true crime has fascinated me for a long time. In many instances, it can feel pretty exploitative.

The sheer number of femicide cases that accumulate each year present an almost endless roster of “material” from which showrunners may select. And the treatment they receive at the hands of the entertainment industry often seems intentionally titillating.

But these are very real stories and the methods chosen to present them can have a genuine impact. The risk of perpetuating certain damaging behaviours or perspectives is all too real.

I kept finding myself pondering questions about one specific type of documentary – the kind that features re-enactment scenes. How much artistic licence is – or should be – used in these scenes? What should the audience be allowed to see, and what should remain hidden for sensitivity’s sake? How do the roles of real-life victims and perpetrators affect the actors and their interplay?

This last question continued to turn over in my mind until I came to the realisation that creating a piece of theatre to explore the potential answer would also provide opportunities to discuss an urgent wider issue that I’ve long wanted to address – that of gender-based violence.

What are the most startling things you have found out?

The play focuses on the wider threat of gender-based violence, the impact of this threat on everyday lives and relationships, the concept of female safety and the question of male responsibility. With that said, the things that continue to startle me about it are the reported figures.

Rape Crisis presents figures from the Office of National Statistics stating that one in four UK women (25%) have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult, leading with the acknowledgement that “with so many myths surrounding sexual violence and abuse, it can sometimes be hard to know what to believe”.

I was surprised to see a figure so much lower than I anticipated. Of course, definition does play a part here, but from conversations with women in my network and from many other things I have read and experienced, I would not have been at all surprised if the true figure stood at upwards of 75%.

However, as is common knowledge, sexual assaults regularly go unreported – and many are not even recognised for what they are. As such, it can be difficult to accurately represent the sheer scale of the problem using officially recorded data alone.

How do you balance the need to inform and leave the audience feeling hopeful and able to act?

I think the use of character is vital here. The two central roles in On Me are Shona and Christian, a pair of young actors who have been cast to perform re-enactments in a true crime documentary and must now grapple with unpleasant scenes of abuse and violence whilst harbouring growing feelings for one another.

It was important to me that both characters felt undeniably human, recognisable and engaging. I wanted it to seem like either one could be your friend or colleague. Actors  Leah Eddleston and Alexi Papadopoulos work wonders with this, in my opinion.

The play’s moments of lightness and fun, coupled with the very real natures of Shona and Christian, allow the story and its inherent challenges to be clearly spelt out without it feeling like hard work. However, this also means that the tougher moments hit harder so hopefully it will compel viewers to join the push for a society in which both of these people could feel safe.

Theatre company Dangerous To Know’s intention is to present audience members with an opportunity to make a tangible difference before they even leave the theatre. With that in mind, they have included an option at the point of sale that allows bookers to donate £2 to be split between local anti-GBV charities. There will also be opportunities to donate in person across all performances.

On top of this, the company will host panel-based Q&As after two of the performances, to enable audience members to interact with experts and frontline workers, having their voices heard and asking their burning questions.

What would you like audiences to take from this play?

I would love for people to recognise the extent to which the very real threat of gender-based violence forces everyday people to put their lives on hold, to make painful compromises and to constantly question their own safety and that of others. The impact extends endlessly. A huge difference can be made simply by educating ourselves, having open discussions, treating those in our circle with an equal level of respect and taking active steps to promote positive change.

Why would you advise audiences to have a night off Netflix and come along?

There would be no Netflix if not for new writing, whether in TV, film or theatre. Independent arts companies need your support now more than ever and theatre provides such a vivid, exciting experience every time.

On Me is an engaging and accessible hour-long piece, so, if you’ve never been to the theatre before, it could well be the perfect place to start.

With pay-what-you-can tickets starting from £5, it’s an affordable and sociable way to spend an evening and the subject matter is bound to prompt fascinating conversation for hours afterwards. Immerse yourself in unique and interesting viewpoints, meet new people, engage with an urgent cause and support a vital industry for little more than the price of a pint.

On Me is at the Waterside Theatre in Sale on 2nd May and Bolton Library Lecture Theatre from 16th – 17th May.

For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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