Writer Safaa Benson-Effiom talks about her show ‘All in Your Head’ Livestreamed via Camden People’s Theatre
With a significant rise in the number of referrals and reporting of domestic violence incidents, the dangers faced by victims have become increasingly apparent during lockdown. Highlighting the voices of those who have been victims of domestic violence, writer Safaa Benson-Effiom, alongside a team consisting of Director Lucy Dear, Producer Cheryl Ndione and supported by Wellbeing Practitioner Lou Platt amongst other creatives present ‘All in Your Head’ a one woman show based on real accounts. Ahead of the production, Safaa tells us more about this important watch.
Hi Safaa, your topical show All in Your Head will be live-streamed on Sunday 14th February via Camden People’s Theatre. How are you feeling ahead of the production?
I’m feeling great! We’ve really leaned into the format and created a piece that could only work online so I’m excited for the end result and to see how our audience reacts to it. We have a lot of people on our team working hard to bring All In Your Head together; this has been a whole new way of working for all of us and while there have been challenges, the level of commitment and enthusiasm has been high from day one so it’s been an enjoyable process. I think we’ve been able to make something really special – I can’t wait for people to see it!
All in Your Head is a one-woman performance based on real accounts of women who’ve experienced domestic violence and coercive control. Why did you want to explore this particular issue further and how did you approach researching and writing the show?
Well, I have to start by saying that this is all the brainchild of our fearless leader Lucy Dear! All In Your Head was supposed to be a devised scratch piece performed in May of last year but after the pandemic came through and ruined everything, she reconfigured it as an online showing. I gravitate towards topics like this in my own writing so I was really happy to be brought as the writer. Along with that, domestic violence has surged during the pandemic, with victims being trapped at home with their abusers, so creating this piece seemed that much more important.
Though I am the ‘writer’, this has been a fully collaborative process. Lucy gathered so much material – first-hand accounts, pop culture references, even a Spotify playlist – and we had loads of video chats and phone calls discussing our research and bouncing ideas off each other. We were lucky enough to get into a rehearsal room and explore ideas with some actors before the invention of tier 4. Over the Christmas and New Year period, I wrote three drafts of the script, with Lucy always available to talk things through with me and fill the gaps in my knowledge.
I remember saying to Lucy early on that I had no idea what this piece would look like but that I wasn’t worried in the slightest because of the sheer amount of material we had to work with!
A women-led project highlighting the experiences of the often unheard, what does this opportunity to showcase your work mean to you?
Creating a piece in the middle of a pandemic is one thing. Being able to show it to an audience is something else entirely. I feel like I speak for everyone when I say this is less an opportunity to showcase our work, and more an opportunity to bring awareness to a really important issue, something so common and so prevalent it could be happening to someone close to you at this very moment. I hope All In Your Head is able to help people, even if it’s just letting them know what to look out for.
The project has been directed by Lucy Dear, produced by Cheryl Ndione of Purple Moon Theatre and supported by Wellbeing practitioner Lou Platt. How have you collaborated to realise the show?
I think everyone doing their part has brought us really smoothly to this point. It’s a difficult topic to be exploring and a difficult time in the world right now, so having Lou on board has been a blessing! As I’ve said, Lucy has been by my side (figuratively, of course) throughout the process and Cheryl has been an incredible support for us all. I’m really grateful to be part of this.
Have you learned anything new from the process?
I have frequently had my mind blown throughout this process – from realising the harmful ways in which Disney films condition young girls, to discovering new Zoom functionalities. It’s been very educational.
What can viewers expect from the show?
It’s based on and includes verbatim stories collected from support groups, so it’s not going to be a particularly comfortable experience. But it’ll be eye-opening. It’ll be worth it.
What would you like for viewers to take away from the show?
The signs of domestic violence and coercive control go way beyond physical evidence. In fact, the need for ‘proof’ gaslights women and makes them feel they’ve no choice but to suffer in silence. Abusers know this. They count on this. So, we’ve got to do our part to dismantle the systems that allow them to thrive. I want people to be able to identify the more insidious red flags. I want people to understand that this can affect ANYONE. I want people to feel emboldened to speak up, to act, to help.
Performance Date: Sunday, 14th of February
Performance Time: 7PM