Ellen Bannerman’s debut play, Sima, presented by Slimes & Pies Theatre Co., opens at Drayton Arms Theatre next week.
A morality play set in the flat of student Jess in modern-day Edinburgh, the groundbreaking show blurs naturalism with the supernatural as Jess opens up her home to a stranger in need of help.
Where: Drayton Arms Theatre
When: 4-8 Jul, 7.30pm (90 min)
Ticket link: https://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/sima
Social responsibility, the supernatural and domestic violence are all themes in Sima. Tell me a bit more about it.
After the deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, the country began to take the lack of women’s safety on the streets and in homes seriously.
However, it wasn’t long before these women and the plight to stop violence against women were forgotten about.
I, like many other women, are exhausted and appalled that in this day and age women are still losing their lives as a result of male violence.
Sporadically conversations surrounding enforcing preventative measures to stop this violence are facilitated in the media and in government.
However, there is still not enough funding, education, or awareness raised to stop it from occurring.
Therefore I felt it both necessary and vital to write a play that brought attention to this.
As a writer I wanted to take the form of a morality play and reinvent it. The form has been used time and time again in plays and literature, which makes the style of the piece familiar and accessible to most audiences.
Using magical realism and naturalism was an exciting challenge and one I relished as a writer. I felt it only right that in a morality play that supernatural elements were weaved through.
Audiences can then think they’re not just watching another play about domestic abuse but an exploration into an ancient and uncertain world, which hopefully engages and excites them.
Even though the supernatural world can be perceived as a falsity, or to not exist, symbolically I feel as if this attitude is how we dismiss the issues that we as women face today. That they simply do not exist.
You are working with the charity Advance, a local charity helping women and girls at risk of violence. How can readers and audiences engage with and support this cause?
Women tell us that they feel unprotected and silenced; they are not heard or believed by the police, they are not understood by prosecutors and the courts, and are not fully supported by statutory agencies and the wider community.
Who can blame them for feeling this way when more women than ever are reporting domestic abuse, and yet only 3.5% of all domestic abuse incidents were prosecuted last year?
We need to see an increase in commitment from all criminal justice agencies, which includes thorough investigations are completed, perpetrators are prosecuted, sexism and misogyny is challenged wherever it appears and women’s safety is placed at the centre of the criminal justice response.
We must see a move away from placing the burden on survivors and instead a focus on evidence-led prosecutions. Only then can we hope to see trust between survivors and the police improve.
Donating to Advance helps women and children rebuild their lives and have hope for a better future. www.advancecharity.org.uk/donate/
Often society and the media blame the woman who is under attack physically or mentally. How do you think this perspective can be challenged and changed?
In the play we explore how many women who are in violent situations are gaslighted by partners or dismissed by the police because of their mental state.
We want to change the course of this narrative, and instead focus on the lack of support the government gives to women from economically challenged backgrounds.
As well as this lack of financial support given to organizations and services which are trying to protect women.
The more narratives that focus on the systemic and damning societal opinions on domestic abuse, the more likely we are to stop blaming survivors and start challenging people in positions of power to stop violence against women.
Your performances at Drayton Arms are being captioned to make them accessible to D/deaf and hard of hearing audiences. Was it always important to be inclusive in this way?
On director Maddy Corner’s previous fully captioned production, Trade, she realised that just providing one or two captioned performances within a run could not be said to be true accessibility – why would every member of the deaf and HoH community be free to watch the Wednesday afternoon matinee?
Therefore, she made the decision to caption all performances of Trade’s UK tour, with great success, advised by partner Digital4.
Creative captioning is a practice that we want to establish as a company for every production and look to further increase accessibility across the board within our work and shows.