Review originally appeared here.
A cluster of people wait on a muddy patch of grass at a crossroads in Camden, some unsure whether they have come to the right place. Soon the show’s director Evie Manning and writer Aisha Zia arrive and explain what we are waiting for.
Our Glass House is an immersive theatrical experience based on interviews with men and women who have experienced domestic abuse. A two-storey house has been converted into a performance space, and cast members act simultaneously in different rooms while the audience members walk around. They have very different stories to tell, coming from diverse backgrounds and representing a wide range of ages.In the living room is older, middle-class Helen (Cynthia Whelan), who spends her days locked in the house. Occupying a shelf in a recess above the stairs is Charlie (Harley Kierans), only a child. The decoration of each room is meticulous: in Helen’s room shards of a decorative lamp hang in stasis, preserving the moment of impact with the wall. 17-year-old Kayleigh’s room is decorated with IKEA furniture and cider bottles. Visually, the whole house is stunning and skilfully created.
The actors are excellent – their lack of interaction with the 20 audience members who walk around them creates an uncomfortable intensity. Since there is action in every room throughout part of the experience – the confrontation with these claustrophobic, horrific stories – is hearing the shouts of the other actors through the walls.
The production is deeply unsettling. It raises the question of why anyone would choose to see a performance like this, knowing the gravity of the subject matter. But it is extremely important to see Our Glass House in order to raise awareness of aspects of domestic abuse, such as why people do not leave abusive relationships or the fact that men suffer abuse as well as women, and to lessen the taboo of talking about abuse. The diversity of the characters and situations ensures that, whoever is in the audience, there will be something to identify with, something to bring the issue a little closer to home. Not only is Our Glass House a stunning piece of theatre, it is a responsible one too: after each show is a discussion with the writer and director as well as a great deal of information about services to help those who need it – and there are so many people who do.
Our Glass House is on at Camden People’s Theatre until 30th November 2013, for further information or to book visit here.
Photos by Robert Ormerod.