Interview with Dr Lisa Fitzpatrick
The second interview with those behind The Shedding Of Skin, is with Dr Lisa Fitzpatrick. We have asked Lisa to talk about her involvement in the play and some of her thoughts around the subject matter depicted in the play.
Lisa is a Senior Lecturer in Drama at Ulster University, based in Derry/L’Derry. She teaches critical theory, dramaturgy, and Irish Theatre, and supervises PhD students in contemporary Irish theatre and post-conflict performance research.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IT IS IMPORTANT THAT RAPE IS DEPICTED ACCURATELY ON STAGE?
We understand a lot about the world through stories, and the stage to me is all about telling stories. It shapes how we understand victims and perpetrators, and what kind of narratives we believe, and that can be seen clearly in rape trials. For example, most women are frightened of walking home alone at night, and we tend to think of rapists as strange monstrous men hiding in alleyways. Actually, almost all sexual crime is committed by someone the victim knows and trusts. But the stories we usually see are of rapists hiding in dark corners, so when women report being raped by someone they know, or someone they met at a party, they are often not believed. There are lots of difficulties in representing rape accurately, but I think the most important is to listen to what the victims say, and to stage a representation of what they say. It doesn’t have to be explicit, to be really affecting.
WHAT MADE YOU APPROACH KABOSH, IN PARTICULAR, TO DEVELOP THE STORIES YOU HAD RESEARCHED INTO A CREATIVE PROJECT?
It was because of Paula’s (Artistic Director of Kabosh) work in post-conflict theatre – I’d been thinking about it for a long time, and I thought Kabosh was the ideal company to speak to. I had seen some of their other work and I knew Paula would have the ethics of the work in front of her mind at all times.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO ADD AN INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT TO THE STORIES BEING SHARED IN THE PLAY?
Paula felt it was very important, and I think she’s right. It’s not an NI issue, it’s a global and historical aspect of conflict wherever it happens. Women and children, and people who are vulnerable, tend to be the focus of all kinds of private violence when there is a war or public conflict.
WHY DO YOU THINK GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT IS OFTEN MARGINALISED BY THE STATE?
I think this is because the state is concerned with the public, civil conflict. Gender based violence is often private, happening out of sight, so it’s easy to ignore. Also, the state won’t want to admit that its forces are taking part in that kind of abuse, because there is a sense of shame attached to it. If you take NI as an example, naming a paramilitary organisation or a state organisation as being involved in rape would still be very problematic — a lot of people would not want to believe it.
DO YOU EXPECT MANY MEN TO WATCH THE PLAY AND HOW DO YOU HOPE IT WILL AFFECT THEM?
Men are also victims of sexual violence (e.g. strip-searching, torture, even the humiliations of stop-and-search can have sexual elements), and boys are vulnerable to sexual abuse just as girls are. This issue affects people of all genders and sexualities. I would hope it would make men more open to talking about this issue and their experiences, listening to victims, and aware of ways that they might perpetuate stereotypes or silence themselves or others. I think that men are also, often, not sure how to talk about these kinds of issues which can be embarrassing and awkward to confront.