The Calgary Herald recently reported on domestic violence numbers in the city of Calgary and they are disturbing. Of the 20 confirmed homicides in 2019, a third of them were domestic. Alberta has the third highest rate of domestic violence in the country.
Handsome Alice Theatre has taken on this issue and produced a play called Between Us, that examines a relationship that includes abuse. The play aims to address the question, why doesn’t she just leave? And how women are navigating these relationships.
Between Us is an intimate look at the romantic relationship that grows between William (Michael Rolfe) and Anna (Meg Farhall). They meet at a bar and go on dates. We then see them spend more time together and meet the milestones within relationships – saying I love you, moving in together – and the audience gets a view of the red flags that show up. Like how Anna keeps ‘losing’ her keys, or how William wants her to quit her job because he can take care of both of them, or how he flies into episodes of rage where he says things that are insidious. When the relationship turns violent, we really get to see the far-reaching control William has over his partner. The company has included a talk back in the second half where the audience can hear more about this issue and be connected to resources in the community.
Director Vanessa Porteous has the staging in the round, so you get a complete view of the narrative and feel more like you are a part of the story. Alison Yanota’s set design is simple with a bed and a couch on stage, where the action all takes place. KP Smith’s sound design keeps the action very real while it is on stage.
Farhall and Rolfe play well off of each other and have chemistry, which is really important in the telling of this story.
Handsome Alice is addressing an issue in our community that is deeply concerning and the play is hard to watch because of its intimate staging. You cannot look away. But there are elements that take away from the poignancy of the narrative. We don’t hear from William until the end and his soliloquy doesn’t seem genuine, though it is meant to be. The inclusion of violence also allows for the audience to disassociate from the content, which may have been a deliberate choice, but physical violence is a less common form of domestic violence.
Theatre starts conversations. And this is a really important conversation to have. Alberta, needs to listen.
Between Us, by Handsome Alice Theatre runs at the Studio in Vertigo Theatre and has its last performance tomorrow. More information is available online.