Ria Hartley – Untouchable

Ria Hartley returns with Untouchable, part of Contact’s Flying Solo Festival, performed in a comfortable room in the Pankhurst Centre.  For ninety minutes she takes us through her experience of domestic violence, and how it has shaped her life and those of her mother and brothers, whom she names ‘Puppy’ and ‘Taz’.  Weaving graphic description with poignant memories and personal effects from childhood, it’s a powerful story, yet you know there is more under the surface.  In many ways it is the lack of anger, and the memories she clearly omits, that make this so powerful; it reflects the truth that most domestic violence is hidden.

At the heart of this performance is the attempt to move on. Not to get angry, not to take revenge, not to ignore what’s happened and bury it deep down where you hope it will stay, but to break the cycle to enable victims of domestic violence to live as normal a life as possible.  There is great hope in this performance, both in the way Ria addresses her own past, and in how she expresses a belief that her brother might find a way to break his own destructive cycle.

I saw Ria perform at Domestic 2, which was more performance art than theatre, anger and violence more to the fore.  This Flying Solo performance is more powerful having see that previous work, witnessing Ria’s ability to talk openly about her experience.

If there is a lesson from Untouchable it is this.  However traumatic the events we experience, we have to find a way to move forward.  Then, we can either try to bury the memories, or find a way to address them.  Ria makes it clear that only by addressing her past can she find a better future.  But as Ria also points out, it can be difficult, for some almost impossible, to get the right support.  It’s a hard cycle to break, but performances like this highlight the real issues, and make change possible.

There is a video here.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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