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A Pretty Shitty Love

Katherine Chandler

Theatr Clwyd Company

Theatr Clwyd

July 12-23, 2022

Danielle Bird in A Pretty Sh*tty Love at Theatr Clwyd. All pics: Andrew AB Photography
Danielle Bird in A Pretty Shitty Love at Theatr Clwyd. All pics: Andrew AB Photography

After the show, someone asked me if I enjoyed this play. Can a play that is a narrative of domestic abuse ending in extreme violence, actually be enjoyed?

Even so, there are many things to admire about A Pretty Shitty Love. The two actors - Danielle Bird (Hayley) and Daniel Hawksford (Carl) are excellent – Bird in particular, a tour de force performance both telling the story and graphically acting out important conversations and experiences from Hayley's life.

This is most welcome, as the drama is intense and her use of movement and role-play adds variety and humour to keep the narrative absorbing. The portrayal of violence against her is done highly effectively, though of course with physical contact minimised. These scenes would be easy to do badly, thankfully not the case here.

The evening can barely be classed as light entertainment, more true-life drama, but the story is an important one, based on a real case. The abused person, Stacey Gwilliam, showed a profound depth of courage and resourcefulness in enduring and surviving her nightmare, though sadly her abuse led to the foreshortening of her life.

And this is the point of the evening. While Stacey's case was extreme, it is far from an isolated example. In the UK two people a week – the vast majority women – are killed by a partner or former partner.

This story offers some of the attributes of many abusive relationships: intense physical attraction, manipulation, coercive control, low self-esteem and mental and emotional cruelty – as well, naturally, as physical violence. The media can be strangely quiet about this topic, which provides a more than adequate reason for talking about it in a theatre.

But the play doesn't follow the obvious political agenda and merely preach about the evils of abuse. It simply tells the story without casting judgment; the details being quite powerful enough to speak for themselves.

The two characters are flawed people, and while they come from a socially deprived area with significant drug abuse problems, this isn't used to somehow explain away this abusive relationship. This kind of toxic relationship can occur in all strata of society.

So did I enjoy it? In the sense that I was aware of having had an important experience and learned something, especially the courage shown by the abused person, certainly i did.

Full marks to Katherine Chandler and the creative team, led by director Francesca Good ridge, and to Theatr Clwyd for having the courage to present such challenging theatre.

More info and tickets here


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