Compulsory viewing for judges
Below the Belt
A play by Daniel Scott
Starring Imogen Annesley and Duncan Piney
Crossroads Theatre, Sydney until September 12, then Universal Theatre in Melbourne, September 1425
Reviewed by Barry Healy
This play about domestic violence throws the issue into the face of the audience with no apologies. British playwright Daniel Scott intends that it provoke discussion and he has succeeded.
Since arriving in Australia a few weeks ago Scott has been interviewed extensively in the media about the debates raging following the now infamous judicial remarks. He claims no expertise on the subject but he did extensive research in women's refuges and among abusing men to gather background for the play — and it shows in the power of the writing.
The story avoids cliches about passive, dependent women victims and aggressive men. It forces the audience to think about the situation of a successful, economically independent career woman entangling herself with a man apparently searching for a relationship outside of traditional frameworks but who suffers from fundamental self-doubts.
Using a cinematic style of short scenes taken out of chronological order it slowly unfolds the trauma of a couple who genuinely love each other but who can't survive because of the man's violent insecurity. The effect of separating scenes with lighting changes and injecting humour into the dialogue creates a mood of domestic ordinariness which the brief bursts of violence shatter.
The play is intended to dispel any notions that domestic violence is a working class phenomenon. Its most disturbing aspect is the familiarity of the character types. They are intelligent media professionals obviously enjoying good money, but their attitudes towards, and dilemmas with, personal freedom and sexual liberation are common currency today.
Below the Belt reflects the thought and sensitivity that has gone into its writing and is well played by Annesley and Piney. It is frank and unsettling about what goes on between real people today.
It should be compulsory viewing for all judges.