Left – Emily Barclay. Photo – Prudence Upton
Family violence. It should be an oxymoron. Alas, it is a contradiction of terms that is all too real.
In the state of Victoria, Family Violence is the term used instead of Domestic Violence. The term superseded Domestic Violence in the vernacular because in police culture, its reporting of and response to, was met with a lethal indifference. A barney between spouses best kept within houses was the entrenched philosophy.
The lethal indifference seems even more apparent when the victim is non white, not necessarily from the police but the general community, a result of either racial prejudice or a misconceived, misguided acceptance of cultural sensitivities.
Anna Barnes' play Lethal Indifference has the mutilation murder of Reema, an Indian bride brought to Melbourne by her husband Ajay, not as spouse but as sex slave, to be imprisoned, raped and finally killed, as its focus. But it is not a first hand telling by the victim or perpetrator but a re-telling, by a white woman, via “vicarious trauma”.
Anna Barnes has tilled this terrible turf before in Minus One Sister, a script inspired by Sophocles' take on the Elektra story which focuses on the fallout of domestic violence as perceived and experienced by teenage siblings. Vicarious trauma distanced and distilled through the Classics. In Lethal Indifference, Barnes pushes the idea of “it takes a whole community to kill a woman”, that the legal systems in place for restraining orders or protective orders offer little in restraining or protecting, that the silence of society to the screams, the blind eye to the blackened eye, point to the culpability of the community.
Emily Barclay portrays the woman who narrates this second hand story of abuse. The poignancy of the actress' pregnancy, proudly and opportunely presented in disarming dishabille is an image of the hopes and possibility and care-freeness of motherhood, which counterpoints the vulnerability to victim-hood that her “vicarious trauma” monologue seeks to visualise. It's a chatty, charming performance that lulls us, perhaps, into a false security.
Mel Page's set seems to to support that notion – a bedroom of cosy gloom, no chintz or pastel here, but grey manchester on a sheet wrecked bed.
Sure to create controversy, there's no way to be indifferent to Lethal Indifference.
Sydney Theatre Company presents
by Anna Barnes
Director Jessica Arthur
Venue: Wharf 1 Theatre
Dates: 17 Feb – 10 Mar 2018
Tickets: $60 – $54