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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

REVIEW: Rattle Snake at Newcastle Live Theatre




Emotional Tour-de-Force

Open Clasp and Live Theatre in association with York Theatre Royal present:
Rattle Snake


Tour:

Thursday 21st- Saturday 30th September 2017: Newcastle Live Theatre

Monday 2nd October 2017: Rape Crisis @ Morpeth Town Hall

Tuesday 3rd October 2017: Middlesbrough Teesside University

Wednesday 4th October 2017: Sunderland Stages @ The Royalty Theatre

Thursday 5th October 2017: Newcastle Riverside Community Health Project,

Thursday 12th October 2017: Newcastle West End Women & Girls Centre

Friday 13th October 2017: Durham University

Tuesday 17th- Saturday 21st October 2017: York Theatre Royal

Tuesday 24th- Saturday 28th October 2017: Soho Theatre, London

Creative team
Writer    Catrina McHugh
Director    Charlotte Bennett
Designer    Anna Reid
 
Photo: Keith Pattison
Photo: Keith Pattison
Rattle Snake began life commissioned by Durham University and Durham Constabulary and was used to help train 398 Durham Police officers. This coincided with the change in UK law in 2015 which made coercive behaviour in a relationship illegal. Catrina McHugh MBE has worked with a number of women whose stories to create an emotional juggernaut that is one of the most powerful pieces of theatre that I’ve witnessed in some time.
 
Photo: Keith Pattison
Photo: Keith Pattison
The production follows two ladies who have both spent time with a man called James. Christina Berriman Dawson is Suzy, who met James in a bar and after a dance they exchanged numbers. James then invited her for a meal and the relationship blossomed as he was such a gentleman who wanted to listen to her story. Later she would marry him and have 2 children by him.
 
Photo: Keith Pattison
Photo: Keith Pattison
Simultaneously we also have Eilidh Talman with Jen’s story who met James at a bus stop and she also exchanged phone numbers. Fairly shortly after that first meeting James is asking Jen for support as his wife has kicked him out of the house.
 
Photo: Keith Pattison
Photo: Keith Pattison
By having the stories running concurrently we are able to see the repetition of the pattern of behaviour. Occasionally the other actor plays the role of James.  Between the two experiences you have the classic gaslighting behaviour leading to the partner feeling like they are walking on egg shells. Witnessing the systematic use of degrading insults and regular threats of violence is unpleasant, and yet it is important that there is public awareness of such scenarios. Adding to the emotions that you feel as you are watching this are the remainders of lack of support for these women and the ineffectualness of the legal systems.
 
Photo: Keith Pattison
The set is a simple steel framed cube with lighting attached. In the centre is a table where Jen and Suzy set the next meal for James. Reducing the size of the performance area results in a stronger focus on the emotionally charged stories.

Photo: Keith Pattison
The talented Christina Berriman Dawson and Eilidh Talman are totally believable as the women under threat. Director Charlotte Bennett and writer Catrina McHugh have both done well to keep the material coherent. It is not the sort of story one is used to hearing every day.

Photo: Keith Pattison
Perhaps the most shocking element is the unpleasant realisation that these are based upon the true tales of real women who exist right here, right now in our communities. Whilst the women whose experiences have been used have been kept anonymous, one cannot help but feel for them and their children.  In reality there is no happy ending. The abusers continue to abuse. The victims continue to hide.

Open Clasp continue to produce important work and Rattle Snake is no exception. It deserves a large audience in order to expose the issues presented. This is a worthy and powerful performance.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Tour & Ticket details:
  • Thursday 21st - Saturday 30th September 2017: Live Theatre, Newcastle www.live.org.uk / 0191 232 1232
  • Monday 2nd October 2017: Rape Crisis @ Morpeth Town Hall rattlesnakerctn.eventbrite.co.uk
  • Tuesday 3rd October 2017: Teesside University, Middlesbrough 01642 738232
  • Wednesday 4th October 2017: Sunderland Stages @ The Royalty Theatre https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/date/391495  / 0191 561 3455
  • Thursday 5th October 2017: Riverside Community Health Project, Newcastle 0191 226 0754
  • Thursday 12th October 2017: West End Women & Girls Centre, Newcastle 0191 273 4942
  • Friday 13th October 2017: Durham University
  • Tuesday 17th - Saturday 21st October 2017: York Theatre Royal yorktheatreroyal.co.uk / 01904 623568
  • Tuesday 24th - Saturday 28th October 2017: Soho Theatre, London sohotheatre.com / 020 7478 0100



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