A domestic violence project staged at the Manoel Theatre in 2013. Its aims were to raise awareness of domestic violence in Malta. It was interpreted by Magda Van Kuilenburg, Sharon Bezzina and Daniela Vassallo and directed by Marcelle Teuma. This work was informed by the true stories of women at Dar Qalb ta' Ġesù who have survived domestic violence. In its fractured monologues, the performance describes the harassment and physical abuse of women as well as their strenghts.
The dark areas of the stage express the life they have led and from which they are still suffering psychologically.
Last Sunday’s one-night performance of Pretty Lisa was “a theatrical piece initiated and supported by the Manoel Theatre to raise awareness of domestic violence”.
The production was directed by Marcelle Theuma, with Clare Azzopardi working on the script and Chris Gatt taking care of the lighting design.
There were a number of others who worked on this production, that aimed to raise money for two important organisations connected with support for victims of domestic violence.
The script is based on the accounts given at workshops about the very painful experiences of a number of victims.
Lasting just under an hour, this theatrical presentation was performed by three actors: Magda van Kuilenberg, Sharon Bezzina and Daniela Vassallo.
The three are first perceived entering the stage, garbed in the nightgowns in which they were compelled to leave their home to escape the sorrow and terror of their relationship with their husband/partner.
The three, though relieved at having got away, are still influenced by the ugliness of the relationship from which they have fled. All three speak out to the audience, van Kuilenberg in English, the others in Maltese.
All three are different personalities but now and for the rest of the piece it becomes clear that they do have things in common.
All three still have a strong memory of the great unpleasantness and pain to which they have been subjected, and all three feel humiliated at having been psychologically compelled to leave their home.
I think one of them also confesses she still loves her partner, notwithstanding all that has happened, and this of course makes her bitterness even deeper.
There are scenes, vivid ones, in which Theuma gives us some idea of the physical ugliness from which they have escaped. One of them portrays herself, while the others play the men who have destroyed their happiness.
Dressed in a bridal gown, she finds herself at the mercy of the other two, now garbed in male formal morning attire complete with topper, who use her humiliatingly as a mere object, handling her mercilessly.
This scene, more than any other in the piece, gives a shocking picture of the way the women have been used sexually and as house serfs, and to it can be added a fleeting picture of one of them being pulled by her hair along the floor.
I also found it painful to see how the women are pained at the insensitive way they are treated in legal processes. Also very touching was the heartfelt declaration made by one of them, a declaration that surely spoke for the other two, speaking of her desire to live a life in which she knows she is being respected, in which she is not forced to have sex but can experience sex freely and happily.
The penumbras and the dark areas of the stage express the life they have led and from which they are still suffering psychologically.
And when at the end, the auditorium is lit up and women in the audience stand up to say they too have been victims or that they have found freedom, we are reminded that what we have seen may be a piece of theatre, but that it is based on what has happened and continues to happen in Malta today.
No wonder the auditorium then resounded with loud applause and with many good wishes for Dar Qalb ta’ Gesù and Soar support group, the beneficiaries of the evening, to keep up their very praiseworthy work for the unhappy victims of domestic violence.