W@rn - Review

w@rn, written and directed by Helen Nelder, provides a harrowing but informative insight to a marriage where domestic violence and intimidation are the norm. The play, a skilful blend of ritual and naturalistic theatre, that depicts over 10 short scenes the life of Sarah and traces the physical and mental abuse that she suffers under the hands (and feet) of her husband. It showed all too clearly the power of control, through violence and loss of self-esteem, that one partner is able to exert over another- often to the extent that the abused is unable to walk away from the situation. The victim is so worn down by the continual belittling and erosion of confidence that in the end they take on the guilt for the situation and believe that they, and not the abuser, are responsible.

All the cast made their characters natural and believable. Mike Chowney as the husband, James, was successful in showing the two sides to his character - charming and chilling. David Bull, Rebecca Fuller and Amy Curtis were most convincing as Sarah's children. Peta Taylor and Bill Arundel gave excellent support in their roles of Sarah's mother and colleague.

The main acting burden fell on Rachel Henderson. Her portrayal of Sarah and her disintegration was a particularly sensitive, moving and, at times, a painful one.

The play does not provide "a happy ever-after" ending rather it hints at Sarah's will to survive with her once again leaving the family home, together with her children, trying to escape her nightmare life.

Although I agreed with this idea I did not like the final monologue from Sarah. It came across as slightly pretentious.

The long silence that followed the end of the play before the audience dared to applaud highlighted the feeling that what we had seen was not an entertainment but a realistic education.

Barrie Jerram