What do you see when you walk the streets of Bristol? Do you hear the cat calls? Do you see into the eyes of women who walk the curbs at night? Things We Do Not Know uses verbatim theatre, music and dance to recount the stories of women who have fallen into sex work amongst the streets we know and love.
‘I would be a prostitute if I could meet the Queen! I would be a prostitute if it could solve world hunger […] if someone else’s life depended on it, if I had no choice…’ – Things We Do Not Know
Performed at People’s Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC) and working in collaboration with the charity One25, this piece of theatre is striving to make a difference. Kerrie from Bristol Women’s Voice describes her experience:
‘The first thing the audience discover as part of Things We Do Not Know is that all that we are about to hear is based on real experiences and actual testimony from women that have lived and continue to live with these kind of experiences every day.
We are then thrust into a Reddit exchange, where a man, new to the area, is venting all his sexual frustration and how he deals with it. The ensuing comments, watching and hearing it as a young woman made my skin crawl, but it set the tone for the evening as one as incredibly powerful and eye opening, as we begin to hear some harrowing statistics, for example: 99% of women who street sex work in Bristol are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Following on from this, we are introduced to the stories of real women; the sense of intimacy is palpable and grabs you right from the outset.
With Bristol at its core, the piece and its creatives included a really striking technique that celebrates the city’s artistic aesthetic: before each of the women share with us, they went over to a wall, picked up a can of graffiti and sprayed the women’s name on the sheet of paper hanging there. Each had their own distinct look and personality that translated seamlessly into their monologues. Hearing these experiences;abusive partners, drug abuse and failed stints in rehab, broken families was gut wrenching.
“I just wanted to love something, and something to love me.”– Read the cast’s story here
Cleverly, the cast and creative team seemed to understand that it might be difficult for their audiences to put themselves in the shoes of these women, and hand some incredibly powerful ways to bring us in. Each audience member were handed a slip of paper pre show with the words “I am worth…” for us to finish the sentence. These were then read out, and it was lovely to have a moment of positivity amid the accounts. Elsewhere, we heard an interview from a women, who, upon her release from prison just wanted to treat herself to some proper, decent toiletries. Cue the cast inviting some members of the audience to a hand wash and massage: it was so simple, but really poignant and beautiful. It reminded of the importance of self-love, care and the importance of human contact.
That in mind, the love and care that those women whose stories we heard comes from One25, the charity working to bring the 146 women sex working on Bristol’s streets off of them. The charity have a van, which drives the streets once a month – the women can go on for something as simple as a hug or cup of tea, to more practical support: visiting hospital or reporting assaults. They also run a drop in service, which saw 2,100 visits this year. At its heart, both are spaces of unconditional love and without judgement. Hearing about the work they do as someone who had no idea of the extent of the issues these women face, it was so inspiring to hear about their work, and I’m grateful to the cast for such an enlightening and powerful evening!’
Introduction written by Emma Carey
Things We Do Not Know experience written by Kerrie Nicholson