A play about domestic abuse produced by a former police worker will come to Wimbledon this month along with free legal advice for audience members who need it.
Safeword Theatre and Film Production’s play Waking Up Dead tells the all-too-familiar story of a young wife called Sandra who dies at the hands of her violent husband, Paul.
Producer and ex-police staff Jane Upson worked with domestic abuse victims for 13 years, but it wasn’t until 2015 that coercive control became a criminal offence.
Jane saw cases where women jumped between balconies on the eighth floor to get away from their partner, but she’s also seen cases far closer to home.
She said: “About 20 years ago my daughter was the victim of horrendous abuse, that was really awful to deal with.
“And more recently, believe it or not, my six-foot-three son suffered coercive control for about three years.”
In creating Safeword Productions, Jane and her colleagues want to use the medium of drama to educate people on the signs of coercive control.
When actor, author and long-suffering coercive abuse victim Jennifer Gilmour saw Waking Up Dead on its first run, she described it as “a blunt but honest account”.
“It reminded me of a relative who once turned to me and said: ‘It was like you had died, you’ve come back from the dead’.”
‘Make That Call’ © Sarah Ferrara (sarahferrara.com)
The photograph used to promote the play (above) is titled Make that call, which Jane felt strongly conveyed the moment her play is trying to tap into: when a victim realises it’s time to tell someone what’s happening to them.
A big draw to the production is the free help on offer during the night for victims of coercive control who may be in the audience, including free legal advice from a solicitor.
As Jane sees it, this support is particularly important in light of Sally Challen’s appeal.
Challen killed her husband after three decades of coercive control, but her charge of murder could now drop to manslaughter.
Jane points out: “It was hard to prove before Sally Challen.
“There wasn’t anything tangible that could lead to arresting someone.
“Now that coercive control is a criminal offence, it’s made it a lot easier for the women who may not have the bruises but still have the scars.”
Waking Up Dead is showing at Wimbledon Library on the 30 March. Tickets are free and can be booked here, but there will be a raffle to raise money for future productions so be sure to bring some cash.
Feature image shows Safeword Theatre and Film Production (left to right): Vincent Murray (artistic director), Jane Upson (producer), Wendy Walker (writer/director) and Kim Pike (networking director).