Hush – a play about family violence

About Hush

Family Violence is an issue that in many cases still remains firmly hidden from the outside world. Hush retells in the most vivid way, the story of family violence in the words of the perpetrator, the victim and the professionals who become involved.


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// Described as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘extra special’, Hush was funded by a University of Otago Research Grant and explores the concept of a documentary or ‘verbatim’ theatre by creating a play that addresses one of the most significant social issues in New Zealand – Family Violence.

Using the actual words of those involved, this gripping theatrical piece brings into the open a story that is so often silenced. In order to represent their subjects as accurately as possible, the performers use MP3 players in the show. Not only do they repeat the words of their subjects, but they endeavour to replicate their inflections and intonation and, by studying the ‘visual score’ of the interviews, to capture their physical gestures as truthfully as possible.

The first phase of the production involved conducting research which took the form of hundreds of hours of interviews with people who have experienced family violence directly and others who, in their professional lives, help those affected by that violence. Some of these stories are not seen or heard directly in this play, but their information, insights, and experiences have helped to inform the work.

Having conducted the research, a script evolved from a process, of selecting, editing, structuring, and arranging the interview material. To ensure the safety of all those involved with such a powerful and potentially explosive project, the production worked with an Ethics Committee and the writers ensured the subjects whose life experiences were being dramatised were involved in the production.

Six fine actors lend their talents to the project exemplified by Cindy Diver who is infinitely touching as Rose, sodomised as a child, raped as a wife and yet retaining a shining hopefulness. Erica Newlands and Danny Still are joined by seasoned professionals Simon O’Connor and Hilary Halba with the promising young Nadya Shaw Bennett representing a chilling girl who, from infancy, terrorises her family.

To ensure the safety of audience members following each performance there is a brief post-show discussion, providing an opportunity to ask questions about, and comment on aspects of the production and the process involved.

Hush will be performed at the Maidment Theatre 22-27 November. Tickets cost $25/$18 with concession for groups. Book at or by phoning 09 308 2383.

  • Presented by Talking House in association with White Ribbon
  • The project was initially funded by a University of Otago Research Grant
  • Thanks to Creative New Zealand for current funding
  • This production was first performed in Dunedin in 2009, and was also part of a presentation at a theatre conference in Documentary Theatre in Reading, England August 2010
  • A tour of Otago and Southland is planned for 2011

Production Team

Interviewers/researchers/writer-editers/production management/publicity – Cindy Diver, Hilary Halba, Erica Newlands, Simon O’Connor, Danny Still and Stuart Young

Director and Stage Manager – Stuart Young

Dramaturg – Fiona Graham

Designer and lighting operator – Martyn Roberts

Poster design – Danny Still

About whiteribbonnz
White Ribbon is a community led campaign to end men's violence towards women

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