Writer: Martha Watson Allpress
Director: Kaleya Baxe
‘The Battered Woman Doesn’t Look Like You’
This common misconception is exactly the stereotype that Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her) tries to deconstruct. The piece, to oversimplify it, is indeed what it says on the tin; however, the depth, strength and execution of the script, expertly crafted by Martha Watson Allpress, results in a solo piece which is nothing short of superb.
The piece begins with Patricia bumping into her ex-boyfriend on the street; an animated exchange which is played out entertainingly by Yasmin Dawes. Patricia winds up accepting an invitation to dinner that evening and from this point we witness her preparing for the ‘date’ whilst unpacking the initial romance and gradual downfall of the prior two-year relationship.
Dictionary definitions of certain words are littered throughout, a fantastic device which spotlights the difficulty Patricia has in communicating the abuse she experienced. She has learned to choose her words carefully because everyone wants to question her experience without really caring what she has to say.
A poem Patricia reads describing ‘The Battered Woman’ is a stand-out moment and captures the essence of the show succinctly, confronting the expectations society has of what victims of abuse should look like and how they should present themselves.
Dawes is mesmerising in the role and has the audience onside from the moment she starts to speak. Her humour and infectious personality immediately instigate an atmosphere similar to exchanging stories with friends. In the more serious moments, Dawes is captivating to witness and can flick between vulnerable and dismissive in an instant. She is the perfect candidate to balance the contrasting moods of the script, and her accounts of the abuse are layered with nothing but honesty.
The production is supported by intelligent stage design by Ella Clarand and direction by Kaleya Baxe. Patricia’s bedroom is chaotically cluttered with every item imaginable, perfectly representing the post break-up rut she has been living in and, with a bedside table covered in cutesy stickers, there is no doubt she is back living at home. Creative light design transports the audience to a few other locations, but it is within the safety of her bedroom that Patricia shares most of her story. Most interesting is the visual transformation of Patricia herself, as she gradually exchanges the baggy clothes and no-make-up look we meet her in, for a more glammed-up going-out look to give the middle finger to her ex. This means that by the time Patricia is sharing her most vulnerable moments, she stands in front of the audience looking the most confident she has all night. This must be an intentional echo of the show’s message that abuse does not happen to ‘weak’ people.
Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her) is as hard hitting as you would expect it to be and the trigger warnings are there for a reason. However, Patricia refuses to be reduced to a one-dimensional victim in her own story, and any audience members who feel ready to attend will no doubt be impressed by the honesty, complexity and wit of this spectacular solo show.
Runs until 22 May 2022