Persistence Theatre Company’s production of playwright Berni Stapleton’s “Offensive to Some” directed by Ruth Lawrence and starring Miranda McDonald opens on December 7th at 8:00pm at The Gathering Place. The opening will follow National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada on December 6th.
Through a series of monologues, “Offensive to Some” tells the story of a survivor of domestic abuse who is facing jail time for murdering her violent husband. The protagonist’s voice is raw and real and at times hilarious – it’s Stapleton’s refusal to shy away from bringing humour to such a painful topic that makes her character believable and relatable.
Stapleton wrote the original version of this one-woman show in 1995. At the time she toured the country performing the play for groups and organizations that wanted to better understand violence against women and work towards eliminating it. For Stapleton it was an exciting time, because it felt like progress was being made in the fight against domestic abuse. For that reason she has mixed feelings about the fact that the play remains relevant in 2017.
“It’s kind of surreal because it’s almost 25 years old, it was the second piece that I ever wrote in my life. So it’s gratifying that the writing and interpretation of the story still hold up, but on the other hand it’s horrifying that we still need a play like this,” Stapleton said.
Early drafts of “Offensive to Some” were inspired by a story a friend told Stapleton about the last woman hanged in Newfoundland. She began by writing a fictionalized version of the story of a very young woman who was sentenced to death for murdering her much older husband.
Soon Stapleton started imagining what a modern day version of that character might sound like, and came up with a very unique voice. A voice that is distinctly from Newfoundland but also heavily influenced by mid-nineties, American talk shows.
“Suddenly television had become this medium of the confessional where people could get validation for their stories. I had this vision of a woman who desperately wanted to tell her story and be herself and ultimately tell the truth,” Stapleton said.
“I just got inside the head of this woman, somebody who was magical and insightful but had no idea that she was someone who was invested with the beautiful intoxication of growing up in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
That modern-day voice ended up being the play’s protagonist, but the ghost story that inspired the piece remains central to the story. Having the spectre of a woman who was forced into marriage and pregnancy when she was still a child haunting the play is a chilling reminder of the legacy of domestic abuse in our province.
While she finds it difficult to accept that violence against women continues to perpetuate itself, making work like “Offensive to Some” necessary, Stapleton is looking forward to seeing the new adaptation of her work. She is excited that a feminist company whose work she deeply respects is staging the piece.
“It’s a new, vibrant look at the work and I’m going to be as thrilled as anyone to see what they do with it,” Stapleton said.
“I’m particularly thrilled that Persistence, a feminist theatre company, is taking it on. It’s an edgier play and even though it’s funny it’s got a pretty serious undertone to it. So as a playwright I’m very grateful that they’re producing it.”