The play is the second commission from Futures creative engagement programme An Alternative Life which we delivered from 2015 to 2017. During 2016 we worked in partnership the Gaia Centre (run by Refuge) in Lambeth, London, engaging with a phenomenal group of women who were all survivors of domestic abuse. We invited top female artists to deliver short courses throughout the year which resulted in the group writing a song and poetry, recording a podcast and making a short film. We recognised the vital work of front line services and wanted to use our resources to add value to their work; An Alternative Life allowed women to grow in confidence and develop skills in order to live full lives. We passionately believe in the value of working creatively with women who have experienced trauma:
“Creative work is a really safe way of trying out, taking risks and realising what you can and can’t do and just waking up all those bits of the brain that have been all cramped up” – Participant, 2016.
Playwright Alexandra Wood was commissioned to work with the group throughout the year and write a play informed and inspired by their stories and experiences. Never Vera Blue is an extraordinary response and wrestles with the question which angered and frustrated our participants ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ Alexandra wrote a multi layered script which interrogates this question with empathy and understanding. We invited women participating to come on the journey of this production with us; from initial readings of the script to rehearsals to full production. We were joined by women for a London preview at Camden People’s Theatre which was a particularly moving evening. The following day one of the women emailed to talk about the experience:
“What an amazing play!!! The actress is outstanding. Thank you for believing in me, my confidence has grown and going back to work has helped me to thrive in my ability to recognise who I am further.” – Participant, 2018.
Audiences joining us during the festival in The Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre in Summerhall can expect an incredible performance from Laura Dos Santos who plays ‘The Woman’ in this one woman show. The resilience, humour and strength of the women we worked with burns bright at the heart of the story. Upon leaving, they will hear the voices of those women in the song they wrote and recorded with Martyna Baker in 2016:
“Cause I’m ready to just be me
And I’m ready to live happy
Yeah I’m steady cause I’m lovin’ me”
Never Vera Blue is showing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival until the 26th of August. For more information or to book tickets visit the website here.