OASIS House, which has provided a refuge for victims of domestic violence in Waterford for 30 years, recently hosted the Spanner in the Works Theatre Company’s production of ‘Mind Games’ in Waterford and Dungarvan.
Patricia Downey’s 45-minute play tells the story of Lucy Marsh, a 22-year-old Belfast woman who suffers at the hands of Art, her abusive partner, a man whose troubled past is hinted at before the grim reality of his character is made shockingly plain to the audience.
To sit just feet from a portrayal of a man kicking a woman he purports to love and care for, to see him attempt to smother her with a cushion and later wrap a laptop cable around her throat, was a numbing experience.
Patricia Downey’s play ought to leave anyone who sees it feeling decidedly uncomfortable throughout, and pondering the grim reality that faces those who live in abusive relationships thereafter.
While theatre is frequently a medium which uplifts and enraptures us, its ability to shine a light on society’s darkest corners is a fundamental element of its mission statement. Indeed, one could make the same argument for journalism when it comes to comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
“He put a pillow over my head,” Lucy tells the audience. “I couldn’t breathe…I locked the bedroom door to keep him out but he broke the lock; the next day he took the door off its hinges. Waking up, I don’t know whether to be relieved that I’m alive – or sorry that I’m not dead.”
What made ‘Mind Games’, staged at both St Patrick’s Gateway and Dungarvan’s Town Hall Theatre all the more resonant was that it was a staged account of a real-life experience. ‘Art’, who served only one year for his crimes, later “moved on to a girl of 19 who had a baby,” said the playwright.
“The baby was taken off her, he tried to cut an implant out of her arm and attempted to drown her, he did so much to her. So I actually went to her mother and told her that ‘this is a bad one’ so she went to her daughter and was told he’d ‘only been in for burglary’”.
A variation of this appalling story has been sadly shared with the staff of Oasis House over the past three decades.
And the volume of calls the service handled last year led to the creation of a Domestic Abuse Outreach Service, which Oasis House manages in partnership with Tusla and the Waterford Women’s Centre.
The service, which comprises of two outreach staff, was created taken the sense of isolation which domestic abuse victims living in rural Waterford have made known to Oasis House into account.
In addition, victims who have been previously marginalised from accessing local services due to cultural issues such as language, ought to benefit from the provision of the service’s two outreach staff.
In the event of power sharing being restored at Stormont, Patricia Downey hopes to stage an age-appropriate version of ‘Mind Games’ and hold funded follow-up workshops on domestic violence in secondary schools across Northern Ireland. In the meantime, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan ought to heed Patricia’s call and fund a tour of her play to secondary schools throughout the Republic.
Oasis House operates a 24-hour helpline on 1890 264 364. Respite is just a call away for anyone who needs it.