Our Glass House

Wester Hailes, a suburb of Edinburgh, is about as much of a potential tourist destination as the moon. Off the beaten track, yet only a thirty-minute bus ride out of the city centre, Wester Hailes is the setting for Common Wealth’s site-specific drama concerning domestic abuse. Constructed around a series of verbatim accounts from male and female survivors of domestic abuse, it feels almost trivialising to call Our Glass House ‘immersive’ theatre: aligning it in the same vein with Punchdrunk’s masked hedonism and glamour seems inappropriate. Our Glass House is not casual spectatorship of a series of detached encounters: it is an assault on the senses.

A normal house, on a normal estate just outside of Edinburgh. Slightly down at heel but clean and calm. Children play on the street. We enter the house in pairs and in doing so enter the world of six vulnerable individuals. A man makes a video diary in a room full of broken furniture; a child wanders around in a school uniform; a pregnant woman feverishly wrings out wet clothes; an Indian woman mutters words I cannot understand, sorting through her jewellery box; a teenage girl practises pole dancing in a room plastered with pictures ripped from Zoo and Nuts magazines; an older, refined looking lady wearing pearls anxiously looks out the window.

There is a small garden with clothes flapping on the washing line and the words ‘YOU ARE HERE AS A WITNESS’ inscribed on the wall. It is impossible to remain detached, everyone is involved or implicated in this incredibly involving show which makes a science out of the voyeur. Many vignettes staged are very difficult to watch - yet it seems cowardly to turn away. By making Our Glass House such uncomfortable viewing, Common Wealth are reminding us that it is so easy to close our eyes to the reality of domestic abuse thus allowing the vicious circle to perpetuate.

Something difficult to get right with ‘immersive’, site-specific theatre is striking the balance between individual sequences and fluid narrative - it is easy for the action to descend into unrelated, incoherent fragments. Our Glass House have countered this by having a very free structure: you can wander around the house at your leisure yet occasionally the stories collide into collaboration. A tension-filled mealtime: each person cringing in expectancy of a criticism or a blow. A vicious soundscape made up of crashing plates, books being thrown and the aggressive ticking of a typewriter. At the climax, the actions bleeds out of the house into the street showing that violence cannot be contained within walls and impacts on entire communities.

After the experience (calling it a show seems to imply a factor of enjoyment or entertainment), a representative from Women’s Aid, the creators, actors and observers gather in the living room for a post-show discussion. The directors talk about the nucleus of Our Glass House, which was first performed in Bristol, and invite the watchers to contribute threads of discussion and ask questions: an incredibly compassionate, responsible way to close the pages on such an affecting experience. One director asks, ‘If you saw something, heard something, that didn’t seem quite right, if you suspected someone was suffering domestic abuse - would you report it? Or would you consider it to be not your business?’ This is a question we need to ask ourselves.

A harrowing, invasive play that challenges the voyeur to take responsibility for the things they witness. There are no innocent bystanders in domestic abuse.

Reviews by Laura Francis

theSpace on Niddry St

The Bastard Queen

★★
Traverse Theatre

Pre-View:

★★★
The Assembly Rooms

A Split Decision

★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Show Off

★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

The Blurb

A site-specific performance about domestic abuse staged in a residential house. Our Glass House involves moments of fantasy, choreography and song, and is a promenade piece, encouraging audience to make their own journeys.

Most Popular See More

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets