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Behind Closed Doors

    by Janet Shaw



Behind Closed Doors - a play by Janet Shaw about domestic violence
Set in 1969, when physical and mental abuse was a fact of life to many women, this play is about domestic violence inside marriage – a subject still regrettably topical even in today's 'enlightened' times. The engagement of two university students brings together their families.
 

Synopsis

Sandra is from working class Doncaster and Tarquin is from the stockbroker belt of Chertsey in Surrey. The parents of both these students, although geographically and sociologically distant, share a common problem - the two fathers are controlling bullies with large fists. One mother seeks continual refuge in vodka bottles, the other in a make-believe gentleman companion, who is the antithesis of her husband.

The play explores their different social attitudes in a dramatically comedic way to start with, but the mood darkens considerably when the brutish red mist and balled fists become unbearable and unstoppable, with unpleasant, but not altogether unexpected results.

Janet Shaw says...

“Behind Closed Doors” is a term we hear often in the comings and goings of life, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it isn’t. There is nothing funny about domestic  abuse, but when I wrote this play I thought: "no one wants to go to the theatre and feel totally demoralised" so I included, what I hope, is an awful lot of humour.

As a  survivor of abuse I didn’t try to trivialise the total helplessness of someone in what can be only described as a tragic situation.

It doesn’t always have to be physical abuse; mental abuse can be as equally soul destroying. It isn’t easy to escape from these situations and often I find myself smiling when I hear people  say: “He would only do that to me once”... you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you have the right to say those words.


Characters

(5m, 3f)

The Heptinstalls
Eddie - 40’s, a bin man (refuse collector). He is a good man but has mixed feelings about social graces and behaviour which makes for a complex character. On the surface he is loud, rude and tries to be comical. On the inside he is insecure and childish which stems from a bad upbringing. He does love his wife and children, but doesn’t have a clue how to show it
Pearl - 40’s, harassed and worn out, Eddie’s wife. A ‘salt of the earth’ character, she is always busy and is either dressed in overalls or a tabard. She normally wears no make up and her hair always look like it needs a good brush
Sandra - 19-20, a very intelligent young lady. She adores her mother, but can’t understand her father’s attitudes. Has the ability to adjust her accent to suit the people to whom she is talking, but talks in more of a Yorkshire accent when speaking to her parents
Kevin - 19, their son. Naïve, gullible and easily teased.
Thomas - a fantasy character in Pearl’s mind. He should always be dressed 'over the top' to emphasise that he is a fantasy.
 
The Pollocks
Vernon - 40’s, the Chairman of a football pools company and extremely rich. He is bombastic, arrogant and selfish. This comes across not in a loud way, but in an extremely cold and calculating manner. His aggression towards his wife builds up slowly and at first his put-downs must be done pleasantly, but still with manipulation. His attitude will slowly change until he loses control completely. He is a perfectionist and everything must be in its place.
Harriet - 40’s, a quiet unassuming lady. She is bullied and chastised by her husband; he controls her completely. This makes her very nervous in his company, as no matter what she says or does, it is always wrong. She tries to be pleasant at all times but sometimes this makes her come across as silly and air-headed. She never knows the right answer to anything Vernon asks her
Tarquin - 20-21, has been brought up not to question his father and therefore looks straight past his faults. He is very close to his mother.


Read the full script online here...


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