There's this story in the news. I can't say what it is but it's a pretty familiar story. You'll know it because it's been told a hundred, thousand times before: there's this woman, see? She's on trial. No, wait, she's not on trial, no, some bloke is. For raping her. Allegedly. But she was drunk. And she was wearing a dress. And because she was drunk there is some confusion as to whether or not she consented. Because her memory is impaired, by the drink, you see? But it's ok, because the man was sober, so he remembers everything perfectly, and he told his defence lawyer what happened and now it's just a small matter of clearing up the confusion with a few well-worded questions put to the woman in the witness box and this whole sorry mess can be cleared up...
Told you that you'd know the story.
I don't know what I expected when I started writing this play. I knew I wanted to make people think about the many, many ways a woman is conditioned, from birth, into being. About the millions of tiny little mundane moments of inequality and sexism women face every day; the stuff we're not supposed to make a fuss about because it's only having-a-laugh, it's-a-compliment-really, don't-be-such-a-boring-feminist, smile-love-it-might-never-happen. All that stuff builds and grows and it becomes an intricate web, tightly woven into the fabric of our society and you don't even notice it anymore. Or if you do you keep quiet because to say anything would mark you out as a bit silly, a bit feminist, a bit less of a proper woman.
And now I'm sat in the rehearsal room and it's hard to breathe. We're working on the most difficult scene in FABRIC; the rape of Leah and even though I wrote it it's still hard to watch, to hear the words, see the ugly violence happening. Nancy (Sullivan, the actress playing Leah) is heartbreaking to watch and I'm struck by the enormous diligence she takes to get every moment right, to be truthful to Leah. Tom (O'Brien, our director) works carefully with her and brings the scene to horrible life. It's Leah telling us what happened, showing us what happened. Despite a few drinks, despite wearing a dress, despite being a woman. She gets to use her own words, her own memories. She makes the scene be about all those tiny little give-us-a-smile-loves. She makes it be about the way we read this story every single day and turn the page, click to comment, change the channel, retweet, retweet, retweet.
There's this story in the news. No, not that one, this is another one. But she was at a party, and she danced with him, and was a bit drunk. And she wore a dress...
FABRIC Is on tour 22 June - 22 July 2016 and at Edinburgh Festival Underbelly 4 - 28 August
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