In this new play by Arthur Holden, characters both suffer from and enact violence
Battered, a play focusing on the acts of aggression that occur when jealousy seeps into a relationship, opens Oct. 18. I sat down with Arthur Holden, playwright, and Diana Fajrajsl, director, to discuss how it came together.
This two-act play revolves around two couples. In the opening scene, Bobby Lyons (Brett Watson) and his girlfriend Filo (Gitanjali Jain) are angry at each other and it is soon revealed that Filo’s broken arm was an undesired consequence of their latest confrontation. A judge orders Lyons to get anger management counseling, and he starts his treatment with Eleanor (Susan Glover), a psychiatrist. However, Eleanor is also facing issues with her lover, Frederick (Shawn Campbell). Throughout the play, Holden said, everyone commits acts of violence but are also its victims. In spite of this, hints of redemption as the play’s central theme are detectable.
Holden said the play’s title represents the various ways in which people commit acts of aggression against each other. “There are times when we do things physically to each other that we shouldn’t do, never intending to cause damage,” he said. According to Holden, aggression can manifest itself emotionally or psychologically, sometimes deliberately or accidentally, even by simple gestures. “People can [also] say things to one another that leave no physical scars, but that change relationships and personalities forever,” he said.
At first glance, it would appear the story is sourced from the ongoing social discourse about violence against women, particularly those that occur in romantic relationships and marriages. However, Holden revealed that the play started out with basing two characters off of his friends, who are actors. Then, he came up with scenes that captured their performance styles. Holden explained as the play developed, he decided to add another couple and, again, these characters were based on people he knew. “I was really writing for people, rather than about an issue and, as I wrote, I realized that I had a subject that I liked—guilt and violence are things that matter to me.”
According to Holden, Battered does not seek to deliver a message on violence. “Along the way, I realized that I was writing about something that has political significance—most stories do ultimately … but I like plays that raise questions more than provide answers.”
Fajrajsl said since this is a newly-released play, it was important for her, as the director, to be as mindful and faithful to the author as possible, and not give the audience a sort of pre-digested meal. She said in preparation for this directing role, she read On Aggression by Konrad Lorenz to help enhance her understanding of the difference between the emotionally-charged forms of aggression that humans display, and the instinctual aggression that manifests in animals. “The actors I am pretty much leaving alone since they actually know more about their characters than I do because they did about three workshops of the play,” said Fajrajsl. Battered was part of Infinitheatre’s 2014 Pipeline series, where the public was invited to offer feedback on the play.
Battered opens on Tuesday Oct. 18 and runs until Nov. 6 at the Rialto Infinite Studio, 5711 ave. du Parc. Student tickets are $20.