BWW REVIEW: The Failings Of Society To Protect Its Women Is Exposed In LETHAL INDIFFERENCE

BWW REVIEW: The Failings Of Society To Protect Its Women Is Exposed In LETHAL INDIFFERENCE

Monday 26th February 2018, 6:30pm Wharf 1 Theatre Walsh Bay

Anna Barnes' LETHAL INDIFFERENCE, shares her observations of the justice system and society's inability to protect the victims of family violence with the aim to raise greater awareness of this problem with society and our roles within it. Directed by Jessica Arthur and presented by sole performer Emily Barclay, this work, first seen as part of Sydney Theatre Company's 2016 Rough Draft Program, seeks to give voice to the stories that are so often ignored because they won't sell papers or get 'likes'.

LETHAL INDIFFERENCE shares Barnes' own experience as a young woman discovering that the world isn't as nice and safe as she expected before she started working in public relations and communications for a family violence legal centre. Believing she was immune to the cases, she discovers she feels she needs to provide a voice for a young woman, identified in this work as Reema, killed by a violent, abusive and possessive husband, after she witnesses the Coroner's court inquest into the death. The story is shocking in the layers of ineptitude of the system which all compounded to leave Reema vulnerable and able to be tracked down despite all her efforts to do everything right from her initial escape from a husband who locked her up and raped and beat her to engaging a lawyer and mustering the courage to enter her husband's "territory" to give evidence at the police station.

Interspersed between the account of Reema's story, what is believed to be Barnes' own story is told to allow a relatability to the storyteller, showing her humanity whilst reminding the audience that she was new to the workings of the family violence legal system and the centre in which she found herself working. Whilst the focus is on Reema's story, Barnes' also shares an insight into the levels of abuse that women deal with daily and how they deal with it to "deactivate bombs" and "clear landmines" to avoid triggering the men in their lives.

Designer Mel Page has given Barclay, who fills the role simply identified as "Woman", a large bedroom complete with glass sliding doors which open onto a balcony from which to tell her story. The box space of the bedroom is dropped into the Wharf 1 stage, creating a distance from the audience and trapping Barclay within the walls whilst giving the impression of a safe space for the expectant mother (Barclay is really expecting) to tell her story whilst dealing with a humid heat as indicated by the rain outside and the need to strip down in front of a fan.

Barclay easily conveys that she is taking on the character of a young woman in both her physicality as she plays with a water bottle and clambers on the bed, and also her speech patterns as she gives the impression of trying to recall the stories and repeatedly clarifying when she remembers she has missed details. It's unclear whether this repetition is scripted or the onset of 'baby brain' but it does wear thin after a while and starts to diminish the impact of the story. Barclay keeps the tone relatively calm as she recounts the details of the case and her own experiences but whilst she often talks out to the audience, it is unclear as to who the character believes she is talking to as she acknowledges a Sydney audience but is inexplicably talking from her bedroom which is removed from the audience.

LETHAL INDIFFERENCE is an interesting and important work in trying to give voice to the multitude of stories that aren't given a hearing in the media and a reminder that we can all do better at trying to protect the vulnerable amongst us. Presented for Sydney Theatre Company's core demographic by putting a familiar character on the stage, Barclay exposes the universality of the problem by making the storyteller relatable whilst ensuring that they consider that this problem is more universal than just migrants as whilst this focuses on Reema, other stories of women dealing with potentially explosive situations are presented without giving them a 'face'. LETHAL INDIFFERENCE achieves its' aim to make the audience uncomfortable enough to want to seek change and also do better at preventing more cases like Reema's and is therefore well worth seeing.

LETHAL INDIFFERENCE

17 February - 10 March 2018

Wharf 1 Theatre

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