OUR GLASS HOUSE
WHALE ARTS CENTRE, WESTER HAILES
Reviewed by Mark Brown
Our Glass House – English theatre company Common Wealth’s site-specific piece about the myriad forms of domestic abuse – takes its audience to the working-class suburb of Wester Hailes. There, we are walked from the Whale Arts Centre to a nearby house, where we encounter a combination of performance and art installation.
A series of characters are located in the various rooms of the house. In one, the pieces of a broken jug are suspended in mid-air. In another (seemingly a teenager’s bedroom) soft porn images and pictures of “idealised” young women from “lad mags”, which are virtually indistinguishable from each other, are plastered on the walls. In the garden, the wall of a neighbouring house carries the legend: “You are here as a witness.”
What we witness, as we wander freely through the house, are appalling accounts of abuse gathered by the company through interviews with victims. In the case of Helen, for example, we are reminded that domestic terror knows no boundaries of social class. Once a university research fellow, she became a prisoner to the outrageous demands, threats and assaults rained down upon her by her husband, a respected professor.
In the midst of some undeniably powerful performances and images, some aesthetic choices fail to serve the material. For example, the decision to have a child actor present an inevitably faltering legalistic defence of an abuser undermines the work’s intent. Likewise the piece’s somewhat heavy-handed, didactic conclusion.
Nevertheless, there is no denying the social relevance of Our Glass House, or of Common Wealth’s capacity, in certain moments, to bring home the horror of the suffering which, far too often, goes on behind closed doors.
Until Aug 25, transferring to a London location, November 11-30. For further information, visit: summerhall.co.uk
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on August 15 , 2013:
© Mark Brown