Review by Carly Fisher
1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse.*
1 in 3.
It’s a staggering number, but like any statistic, it is just a number until that 1 in 3 has a face or a story that you know…and then it’s not a statistic anymore, then it’s personal.
Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Co and specifically, writer Jennifer Johnson, have ensured that we all know a face, know a story - even if it is just one - with their powerful and provocative play ‘Where is Love?’
Following the story of a ‘proper Bradford lass’ Shelley, the play is inspired by a true story and features audio clips throughout of the interviews conducted with the person on whom the play is based as a reminder of its authenticity.
The story is gut-wrenching and is a reminder of how captive the cycles of abuse can be. If someone has been abused as a child, how are they to expect something different as an adult? What makes them know that they are worthy of so much more and that what they have been through need not be the norm? These are the questions I sat in the audience considering and left the room discussing…and I would call that a massive feat for the Company and its mission to use theatre to ignite social change, particularly for working class families.
Johnson’s script moves swiftly through much of our protagonist Shelley’s life, and has a lovely pace that means despite the content being exorbitantly heavy, we are offered moments of levity throughout so that there is no ‘trauma dump’ but rather, as an audience, we are offered an intelligent, respectful and considered recount of someone’s true life experiences.
The show is as good as it is because of the performance that Maeve Brannen gives. Strikingly raw, witty when appropriate and committed throughout, Brannen gives one of the strongest dramatic solo performances I’ve seen at the fringe this year. Playful in her delivery, Brannen works the ebs and flows of this piece expertly to keep the audience in the palm of her hand throughout.
Grace Wilkinson’s direction is clear, creative and laced with moments of great playfulness in the blocking of this work. I loved the creativity of the clothes line’s transformation and the levels offered through the use of minimal but wisely picked set.
The music choices/creations by Claire O’Connor worked exceptionally well in this piece and some of the music is absolutely hauntingly beautiful. O’Connor is an exciting talent to watch out for in this space!
I liked the inclusion of audio snippets from the original interviews conducted but didn’t feel that they were always perfectly placed. At times, stopping the fantastic flow of the piece for the recording was distracting more than it enhanced the show. I would consider playing with the placement of this clips more OR with a better amalgamation of the audio files and music to ensure a smoother transition in these pieces.
It’s a very heavy piece and won’t be for everyone.
But for those who can take it, it is a very relevant watch and an exciting introduction for me to Bloomin’ Buds’ work.
Bloomin Buds’ passion is to ensure better access and inclusion in the Arts for people of all socio-economic backgrounds, and to ensure that working class stories are being created and solidified in the cannon of great theatrical works. Based on the success of Where is Love and because of their noble mission, I cannot wait to see what they bring next…I anticipate that we will see big things from this exciting Bradford based company.
* Numbers according to Women’s Aid (2022) and presented by the production team.