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Norwich theatre group empowers victims

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 April 2011

Empowerment Theatre Company artistic director Lucinda Bray(right) working with actors Max Rudd and Alex Berridge at the Charing Cross centre.

Empowerment Theatre Company artistic director Lucinda Bray(right) working with actors Max Rudd and Alex Berridge at the Charing Cross centre.

Archant © 2011; 01603 772434

While many victims of domestic and sexual violence may be left with low self-esteem and confidence, KATE SCOTTER discovers how a city-based group is using theatre techniques to empower them and bring them out of their shells.

A theatre company is helping to restore confidence in victims of domestic and sexual abuse, while trying to raise awareness of the issues at the same time.

Empowerment Theatre Company was set up last year to help people affected by sexual and domestic abuse.

The group, which runs sessions out of Charing Cross in St John Maddermarket in the city centre, holds workshops with victims, helping them to talk through their experience and express their feelings.

Their experiences then help influence shows which are performed by professional actors and taken out into the community to highlight issues surrounding rape, sexual and domestic abuse, including education and outreach work.

The organisation, which is believed to be the only one of its kind, is still currently in its early days and raising funds to become a registered charity.

Lucinda Bray set up the organisation after her own experiences of sexual violence.

The 25-year-old, who lives near Acle, has always had a background in performing arts and thought that her passion for the theatre could help those trying to get over the trauma of abuse.

She said: “Theatre has two functions in the world - to entertain and offer escape and to educate and challenge people’s perceptions.

“It has a dual role in society and theatre is a really good way of challenging issues like sexual and domestic violence - it’s not as confrontational as standing up on a soap box saying this is wrong.”

The company has held a number of productions since it started last January, including a cabaret-inspired performance at The Birdcage in Pottergate, and a show as part of the Festival of Five Well Being in Great Yarmouth.

It recently launched creative support workshops, which are held at the Charity Cross centre and give survivors the opportunity to influence their work.

“The idea is to use traditional theatre techniques to explore day-to-day issues that survivors and their relatives and friends deal with on a day-to-day basis,” said Ms Bray.

“We look at things which may seem peripheral, but impact their daily lives and are pertinent - such as changes in their perceptions of people and how they interact with other people.

“Those taking part take strength from one another and they influence the shows which take out into the community.”

The company currently has 15 actors on its books and three trustees on its board. It is seeking more people to become trustees and hoping to raise £5,000 to become a registered charity.

So far, the response to the workshops and productions has been positive.

“Sometimes when you say about the creative support group, they are worried that they are going to have to bare their souls on the stage, but that’s not what we’re about,” said Ms Bray.

“It’s about using the theatre to explore, say things and looking at things in a different way. Survivors have a tendency to forget how strong they are and how far they have come.

“What the theatre group offers them is a way of coming out of themselves and feeling like they own something. For victims of rape, there is often an issue with ownership and feeling of being unpowered - gender violence is a power struggle which happens to both sexes by both sexes.”

As well as helping victims and their families, the organisation aims to challenge the wider community, raise awareness and get people talking and thinking.

Ms Bray added: “We’re always looking to create theatre experiences for audiences to challenge their views on gender and get the message across that sexual violence doesn’t just happen to women, but men as well.

“Domestic violence happens to men as well. We’re trying to get violence issues and gender issues on the agenda.”

To find out more about Empowerment Theatre Company, go to www.empowerment-theatre.org.uk or email enquiries@empowerment-theatre.org.uk

You can also follow them on Twitter @EmpowermentTC or search for Empowerment Theatre Company on Facebook

Have you come up with a project to help other people? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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