Punched: Sadie Frost appears in ‘no frills’ drama exploring domestic abuse

Tracy-Ann Oberman, Donna Air and Annie Lennox will perform in the one-off fundraising West End drama

Women’s experiences of domestic and sexual violence will be dramatised in a West End theatre next week to “give voice” to survivors and highlight the scale of abuse.

“We all carry a lifetime of experiences – it doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is,” said Sadie Frost, one of those performing in Punched.

The evening of short monologues and scenes based on survivors’ stories will raise funds for charities working around gender-based abuse.

Described as a homage to The Vagina Monologues, it is directed by Jude Kelly, and performers include Priyanga Burford, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Issy Knopfler and spoken-word poet Miss Yankey.

Annie Lennox will make an address via a film shot by Hollywood director Sam Taylor-Johnson, and Saffron Burrows has directed a short film with Marianne Jean-Baptiste in support of a South African rape crisis centre.

Punched came out of a conversation between actors Donna Air and Lorien Haynes. “We met to discuss writing a sitcom and by the end of the meeting we had created Punched,” said Air.

The pair were alarmed by the “shadow pandemic” of domestic abuse and violence during the Covid lockdowns. In March, the charity Refuge reported a 61% increase in calls to its helpline and other contacts in the previous year.

This month, the Office for National Statistics estimated that one in three women over the age of 16 were subjected to at least one form of harassment in the past year – a figure that increases to two in three for women aged 16 to 34.

“Dramatising these stories makes them powerful but also easier to witness and process,” said Haynes. “They are all under three minutes, and all self-contained stories of moments in women’s lives. A lot are stories of triumph.”

Haynes, a survivor of abuse, said writing and producing Punched “brings up all your own shit, but I’ve always felt it was important to see the bigger picture”.

Air said she had been overwhelmed by the response to The Split, a BBC drama in which she played a woman divorcing her controlling husband. “I was surprised how much it spoke to people. I had an enormous number of letters from people who had been feeling very isolated.”

Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues became a global sensation after it was first performed in New York in 1996. The producers of Punched hope that adaptations of their show may also eventually find audiences across the world.

Each story highlights a different aspect of gender-based violence, including rape, coercive control, sexual harassment and abuse of children.

Frost will perform in a two-hander adapted from a screenplay she is writing, featuring a mother and daughter. “It draws on my experiences and those of my friends, but it’s not about me,” she said.

There had been a “huge generational shift” in attitudes to domestic and sexual violence, Frost added. Women in their 40s and older had been expected to tolerate certain behaviours, said Air, whereas younger women had “much stronger voices, and put down much firmer boundaries”.

Punched is raising funds for three charities: The Circle, founded by Lennox, Refuge, and Southall Black Sisters.

“It’s not a fancy theatre show, it’s very stripped back and no-frills,” said Air. All those producing and performing in the event have donated their time. “It won’t be a night of huge performances – it’s a night of being honest,” said Frost.

Punched: An Evening of Survivors’ Stories is at the Criterion Theatre in London on Monday 6 December.


Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sarah Everard’s death prompts men to join groups trying to halt male violence
Experts hope deaths of Everard and Sabina Nessa could mark a turning point of violence against women in the UK

Amelia Hill

12, Oct, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Home Office backing of women’s safety app is insulting, campaigners say
Campaigners argue that tracking journeys does nothing to tackle male violence and may be open to abuse

Alexandra Topping

10, Jan, 2022 @7:05 AM

Article image
Domestic abuse offences in London rise 63% in seven years
Mayor Sadiq Khan announces £15m extra funding after cuts put services at ‘breaking point’

Sarah Marsh

27, Feb, 2019 @11:28 AM

Article image
‘No support’: domestic abuse survivors on feeling ignored by police
Women say they were left feeling vulnerable as they struggled to receive protection from violence

Alexandra Topping

17, Sep, 2021 @5:04 PM

Article image
A strategy for women’s health in England: six areas of focus
From gynaecological conditions to healthy ageing, these are expected to be the priorities of the final plan

Andrew Gregory Health editor

23, Dec, 2021 @12:01 AM

Article image
Mother of Him review – unflinching crime drama with Tracy-Ann Oberman
Oberman stars as the mother of a teenage rapist in this revival of Evan Placey’s rich exploration of family conflict

Arifa Akbar

25, Sep, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
The Archers: call to help domestic abuse victims as Titchener trial starts
Opening of fictional case in which Helen faces jail for stabbing husband Rob sees renewed pleas from domestic abuse charities

Haroon Siddique and Kevin Rawlinson

04, Sep, 2016 @6:42 PM

Article image
Boots to provide help for domestic abuse victims
Pharmacies to provide safe spaces during coronavirus lockdown after rise in calls

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

30, Apr, 2020 @11:01 PM

Article image
MPs to try to ban 'rough sex' murder defence in domestic abuse bill
Parliament to debate delayed bill amid dramatic rise in abuse cases during lockdown

Owen Bowcott and Jamie Grierson

28, Apr, 2020 @3:33 PM

Article image
Women's Aid launches scheme to tackle hidden domestic abuse
Comic Relief and ‘tampon tax’ fund plan to identify and help victims, including those suffering coercive control

Damien Gayle

15, Jun, 2016 @4:41 PM