A Powerful Piece of Art: “Offensive to Some” shows the brutal truth surrounding Domestic Violence

I was fortunate enough to find myself at the LSPU Hall this past Friday for Persistence Theatre’s second run of Offensive to Some, a play written by local theatre veteran Berni Stapleton. I went in with a fresh mind, having never seen this piece performed before, and I was curious to see how things would unfold. I was happy to see an almost full house for this performance, with about a quarter of the seats unclaimed. Offensive to Some is a part of this year’s presentation series, and from seeing some of the shows from last year’s series, even being involved one, I knew that the quality of shows chosen was high, so I knew I was about to see something very special. It wasn’t until the lights came up on actress Miranda MacDonald, did I know what I was in for.

Offensive to Some is a one-woman show, revolving around a woman and her history of domestic abuse. At the beginning of the show, audience members are welcomed by MacDonald sitting in silence in, what is believed to be an interrogation room, waiting. As she begins to speak, the audience begins to learn; showing the ups and downs of a woman who has just killed her husband, the terrible past, and suffering that led her to this moment. For about an hour and a half, the audience is taken on this emotional rollercoaster, having so many moments of lightheartedness and laughter, to vivid depictions of abuse and violence. In the end, we uncover bit by bit the truth behind her story and her behaviour.

Photo by Ashley Harding Photography

Photo by Ashley Harding Photography

Sitting down, listening to this play, all I could think about was how Stapleton’s words seem so effortless. There was a real natural feel to this script, which makes the words and meanings much more painful when they land with the audience. The most memorable scene and the hardest to watch was when we see the girl remembering one of the countless times she was forced to have sex with her husband, while the kids are in the attic. Stapleton wrote such an elaborate set of emotions at this point of the play, switching back and forth to light and dark as quick as you could snap. As an audience member, I felt her words in my stomach. In my chest. Stapleton comparing David, the husband character in this story, to a “werewolf” was brilliant and effective. Her phrasing and language in this piece hits you and puts you in this real place, a tangible feeling. Stapleton was not afraid to write about topics that many people find taboo and made people listen to it. She is a genius, and I am very happy I got to hear these words out loud.

Photo by Ashley Harding Photography

Photo by Ashley Harding Photography

Something very unique and special about this show is that the entire cast and crew are all female. This show is directed by another St. John’s theatre veteran, Ruth Lawrence. Lawrence’s direction of this piece was flawless and creative. The smallest details refined, and every word, and breath developed. Lawrence made such wise decisions with the movement aspect in this piece, with choreographing the depiction of abuse so carefully and precise, it kept you sucked into that story, even though you wanted to look away. Lighting designer Diana Daly painted such a beautiful picture and allowed the audience to be taken to different worlds within that one room on stage. The use of lighting in this show is essential and was executed perfectly. These women, along with stage manager Jaimie Tait, sound designer Lori Clarke, set and costume designer Emily Austin, Persistence Theatre’s fearless leader, Jenn Deon, and production manager Mara Bredovskis all deserve a standing ovation for their incredible work on this show.

Of course, this review would not be finished without talking about the sensational Miranda MacDonald. MacDonald is a seasoned performer, took on this one-woman show and the result was absolutely incredible. MacDonald’s dedication to character and devotion to every word she said showed and was so refreshing to watch. Even in the silence, MacDonald had the audience listening. Her effortless, and sharp movements were effective in putting the audience in the moments of abuse, and really depicted the brutal truth that is domestic abuse. I could not think of a better actress to take on this role.

Photo by Ashley Harding Photography

Photo by Ashley Harding Photography

In this show, Stapleton writes about the character having a “bad strain”, having this fate in her DNA. When the lights came up at the end of the show, everyone is faced with the brutal truth, that many of us forget, which is that stories just like the one in this show are real. They happen every day. Many people go through this, and even after growing as a society and recognizing that things need to change, it still is so real and alive. A good show will make you think. A great show will teach you; remind you. This show did this. After the show ended, there was a panel with MacDonald, Nicole Kieley from the NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre, and Brenda Grzetic from the St. John’s Status of Women’s Council, discussing domestic abuse. It was so nice to see that the decision was made to get people talking after seeing such an emotional piece of work. Talking about it is so instrumental to help people recognize it is happening to them, or around them, and to show people that help is available.

I am so privileged to have witnessed this, and I hope you get to see this show in another run. Bravo.