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Women’s Refuge

Outreach with Refuge

Outreach with Refuge has taken place throughout the project. In September 2019, a six-week project led by Lucinda Meredith and Howard Saddler around self-perception and how others perceive you, focused on building confidence and public speaking skills, culminating in women presenting images and monologues. Refuge kept images from the project to present on their drop-in centre walls to celebrate the work.

Tough Love Rehearsed Reading

“Tough Love brings to life stories of resilience, and the dreams and hope-filled ambitions of women living in refuge.”

Following her two-year relationship with Theatre Royal as Associate Artist working with community groups, including women in Refuge, artist Danusia Iwaszko was commissioned to create a new play around the topic of domestic violence. Danusia was passionate that the play should be carried by songs to make it palatable to mainstream audiences, after having written work for audiences with lived experience of domestic violence or support staff and agencies. The challenge Danusia set herself was to create a piece of work that could be illuminating, poignant, informative and entertaining about this topic.

Danusia paired up with Composer Phil Gostello and Director Roger Haines and spent two years during lockdown writing a script, songs, and score with Phil, to enter rehearsal in AMrch 2022 for performance. As part of the creative process, the trio were given time and space to create together in a three-day intensive session once COVID restrictions had lifted and outside of regular contact via Zoom and phone. This gave the three artists working on the project the opportunity to meet in person and engage in a more traditional creative process.

Zoe Fox, producer at Theatre Royal

“It was an important time, following the impact of COVID had on the freelance artist community, to support three freelance artists two of whom are Suffolk-based. We were able to provide two R&D periods for the Director, Playwright and Musical Director to come together and work through the script and composition before the cast came and rehearsed for a week in March 2022. This is something that is not often an option on commissioned scripts so the team were very appreciative of this time together at the early stages of the creative process, and importantly with the support from ACE we were able to pay them for this time.”

Danusia Iwaszko, associate artist & Tough Love writer

“I was the writer of the play Tough Love, which was a play with songs detailing the life of women in a refuge. For me as an artist, it was a very enriching experience. The play was challenging in certain ways. Getting the balance between the darkness of the women’s stories and some humour was one challenge also the balance of music and dialogue. I think we were successful in both of these outcomes. We also had to honour the women’s stories the women were present at the reading and the feedback was positive. The aim of the piece was to inform and affect the audience and again the audience feedback generally showed we were successful. As this was only a script-in-hand reading, the aim now is to achieve a full production to disseminate the stories to a wider audience, so this is the next step.”

A successful production

177 people attended this script-in-hand reading at Theatre Royal in March 2022. The audience was made up of service users, Women’s Aid staff, survivors of domestic violence, NHS staff, interested general public, theatre professionals, and producers.

Following the production at Theatre Royal, Danusia took the production to New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich on 25 June as part of the Writer’s Week showcase to share with a wider audience.

Audience feedback

“An important and difficult subject tackled in an ingenious subtle way. The use of Dan Leno both lightened the tone and highlighted human vulnerability.”

“A show that hit a point that some have never had reason to think about, but many have.”

“It certainly should go around other theatres.”

“At last, an accurate portrayal of subject that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have only given four stars because it is a work-in-progress but I would give five stars for the music and lyrics alone. A good insight into some of the victims of ‘Tough Love’. I thought the subject matter important and welcome – the combination of genres (musical/music hall/serious drama) really interesting – some great performances especially the Dan Leno/men character who stole the show a little.”