We chatted to Jenna about her play Ruckus, playing as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Hi Jenna – could you explain what Ruckus is about? Ruckus, my debut play, is a n one-woman thriller exploring the suppression and destruction caused by coercive control. The audience follows Lou, a 28 year old primary school teacher, who’s completely aware the audience are watching her. In fact, she wants them there. She wants to show them the exact moments in her relationship, breaking down the progression of coercive control. And finally ask the audience, did they see it?

How did the idea for the play come about? I’ve had a few personal experiences of seeing people I cared about being in domestic abuse relationships. With this, I always felt frustrated that I didn’t understand why these relationships happened and why it appeared the victim was trapped. In 2018, I saw the one- man show Angry Alan by Penelope Skinner at Edinburgh Fringe which
completely blew my mind. It was the perfect example of how to truly show a side of someone’s life story. It gave me the push I needed to write a one- woman show about being in a coercive controlled relationship.

How did you go about putting the play together?  It wasn’t till I was in my mid-twenties I seriously considered trying to write something. I’d always have ideas but no strategy on where to even begin. After coming up with the idea, I pitched it to Wildcard Theatre Company. They agreed to produce it and continued to support me throughout the process. Firstly, I started with research, which has been ongoing over the last three years. I used reports from leading charities such as SafeLives as well as the work of leading sociologists such as Evan Stark, investigative journalists such as Jess Hill and researchers tackling domestic abuse and coercive control, to create an accurate and experiential play. It was in this research I found a turning point in my questions about the play. It wasn’t “Why doesn’t she leave?” but “Why as a society do we produce perpetrators in the first place?” and “Why coercive control perfectly works in today’s patriarchal society.” With many play readings at Wildcard’s studios in Bbond Sstreet, two R&Ds and a three week rehearsal process – it’s now ready for Edinburgh Fringe.

What did you hope that audiences will take away from Ruckus? Knowledge of coercive control. We’re simply not taught what is a healthy or toxic relationship. It’s inevitable that we fall into the system of power in our society which enables the actions of perpetrators. So I really do hope that, through telling the story of Ruckus, audiences go back and spot the signs of coercion. Then bring this awareness in their life. Question their personal relationships. And most importantly, know there is help out there.

How does it feel to be taking the play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Oh it’s a mixture of feelings. I can’t help but be a little overwhelmed. It’s been such a massive aim of
mine for the last three years, I kinda can’t believe it’s here. But I’m so excited. Edinburgh Fringe Festival has always been on my bucket list. I always admired watching other artists and close friends create work and perform at the Fringe. It’s joyous and inspirational to follow their journey with the show after the festival and watch the next steps in their career.

By Emma Clarendon

Ruckus will play at the Summerhall, Cairns Lecture Theatre, 3.30pm, 3-28 August (not 15 or 22). To book tickets visit: https://festival.summerhall.co.uk/performances/ruckus-5/