Manchester actress Jo Fisher has created a new play exploring the complexity of domestic violence through the eyes of survivors and perpetrators from Salford.
And Then You Kissed Me is based on real life testimonies, a technique called verbatim theatre, collected by Jo from domestic violence agencies and services.
This play will be the third in a series tackling social issues, with the previous two Just a Few Quid and The Queen is Dead focusing on organised crime and the 2011 Salford riots respectively.
Jo, from Openshaw, wanted to reflect the problems that affect people in disadvantaged areas of Greater Manchester in the hope that theatre can produce real change.
She understands, from first-hand experience, the profound affect theatre can have in directing people’s lives.
She said: “I could have been any one of those rioters in Salford, or be any one of these women in And Then You Kissed Me.
“I grew up in the underprivileged areas of Openshaw in the 70s when nobody had anything, so very similar to Salford in terms of background and upbringing, and theatre changed my life.
“The biggest influence on my life has been the work of Max Stafford-Clark, and since then I’ve always wanted to do some verbatim theatre.
“I was in floods of tears all through A State Affair because it rang so true on so many levels and was so accessible.”
She hopes that she can tap into an audience that might not be stereotypical theatre-goers, which is why excerpts of the play have been performed at Piccadilly station in order to bring theatre directly into the community.
She said: “People are very comfortable sitting at home and watching Coronation Street and that’s not because they’re lazy and think ‘oh I’ll just turn that on’, it’s because they can on some level relate to it.
“They can forget a bit about their day and they can sit and relate to it, but a lot of the community and a lot of people from those social classes don’t think the theatre’s for them”
Accessibility is at the heart of Jo’s ethos, as she hopes it will encourage people to reflect on their own behaviour and relationships.
“Anyone seeing the play can see things in themselves that might not be severe but could be the start of the problem,” she said.
“The things we say to each other and the way we treat each other is sometimes not in the best way possible.
“And it’s not until you see it on the stage that it reflects back.”
Jo also hopes the play will add to the current media buzz around domestic violence issues, and put pressure on policy-makers and those on the front line of the issue.
She said: “Obviously it’s great when we have regular theatre-goers, but we try and dig in to the community.
“So we’ve got some doctors coming in and some police officers because they’re the decision makers.”
The verbatim stories have been cultivated into a realistic piece of drama and stories and characters have been woven together even though none of the real people actually knew each other.
The piece features stories from a variety of victims and perpetrators, including a male survivor and highlights that the issue of domestic abuse is not as clear cut as some people may believe.
Jo said: “You begin to realise how difficult it is from everybody’s angle.
“Of course it is from the victims because they’re the ones suffering it but also if you’re a perpetrator who’s repeating that behaviour and you’re desperately trying not to, that can be hard too.
“What it isn’t is lots of women sitting on stage and saying how horrible men are.
“The male victim I interviewed who featured in the play was so apologetic when he came and it took me a while for him to understand it was absolutely fine to open up.
“There’s a lot of blame and people feel ashamed, and they think that we would never have gone through anything like that, so they felt even more embarrassed.
“And some victims don’t realise they’re victims, because they’re still blaming themselves, so they think ‘Oh there must be something wrong with me.”
And Then You Kissed Me is on from January 12 to 15, starting at The Met in Bury, before moving to The Lowry, Salford and The Citadel, St Helens.
For tickets and more information click here.