Mercury Reads: Bindweed

We are pleased to announce our next Mercury Reads will be Bindweed by Martha Loader on Thursday 28 July.

Bindweed is about Jen, who works with a domestic abuse perpetrator group. She has also just started dating…

Martha Loader is a playwright, producer and actor based in East Anglia, and she’s a current Mercury Theatre Playwright. Her work has been performed nationally and internationally including at Cambridge Junction, HighTide Festival, INK Festival, Tristan Bates Theatre and the Owl and Cat Theatre, Melbourne.

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Martha has written us a special guest blog to tell us more about Bindweed, how it came about and about being a Mercury Theatre Playwright.

The Mercury Playwrights programme has been a real joy to be part of over the past year. Especially while we’re all still creatively finding our feet again, it’s been hugely important to be part of a network of writers, directors and producers supported by the Mercury.

Although writing is often considered a solitary profession, most of us don’t go into theatre-making to sit alone in a room for days, weeks, months on end. It’s nice to have the company of other creatives around you. I find it difficult to create anything in isolation, and that’s what the Playwrights scheme offered me. Bringing together a group of us each month to chat writing and ideas, led by the incomparable Kenny Emson, was just the kind of creative stimulation I craved. As much as they’re great ways of learning new skills and pinching ideas and methods off each other, these playwriting schemes are also our very own Writers Anonymous groups. A place to moan about how hard writing is and how miserable redrafting can be, whilst also reminding each other how lucky we are to do this at all and call it our job.

Kenny has been a great support throughout the process of writing Bindweed. From pitching him the initial idea, to encouraging me just to get something finished for that first draft deadline, to helping me cull lots of unnecessary characters, to nurturing the ones left… it’s been a pleasure to work with him, because I can’t do this on my own. I don’t think many people can, and having someone like Kenny to encourage, challenge and at times, threaten me is just what I need. As well as being a great mentor through this process, he is also a beautiful writer and someone whose professional opinion I really respect – which helps to remember when he’s rightfully telling me that tenth character is overkill!

Bindweed was born out of my attempt to understand why so many women continue to be murdered by men. The rise in domestic abuse during lockdown, the murders of Zara Aleena, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, to name but a few, and the onslaught of gleeful online misogyny directed at Amber Heard has been sobering. I wanted to shift the conversation away from domestic abuse being a ‘woman’s problem’ – women are more likely to lose their homes, their jobs, move away from friends and family, their children to have to move schools as a result of domestic abuse. I wanted to ask what the men (of course women abuse too, but it is overwhelmingly still men that are the main perpetrators of domestic abuse) were doing to change.

Perpetrator groups do exist, and are crucial components in trying to break the cycle of abuse in this country. They are delivered in different formats, using different methodologies, and mine is only a fictionalised version of one of these groups. I have been fortunate enough to speak to some of the facilitators of these groups, who have very generously provided me with their time and insight and who will be crucial to this play in its next stages. I am interested in the messy bits of life, the bits that aren’t cut and dry.

Plays can be a chance, as Nina Raine said, to ‘air issues, not tie them up neatly with a bow’. This is by no means an attempt to exonerate the men who abuse, but more to try to understand the why, and what we as a society can actively do to end this global endemic of violence against women and girls. Six women every hour are murdered by their partners or family members around the world. It cannot continue.

We are pleased to also announce that Bindweed will be directed by Bethany Pitts, an award-winning director and dramaturg of new work.

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Her directing credits include: Sirens by Kenny Emson (Mercury Theatre, Critics Choice 2021, Juniper and Jules by Stephanie Martin (Soho Theatre/previously VAULT Festival – Show of the Week Award), Fuck You Pay Me by Joana Nastari (VAULT & Edinburgh Festivals/Bunker Theatre), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Gynecologic Oncology Unit by Halley Feiffer (Finborough Theatre, UK premiere – 3 x Off West End Nominations), 3 Billion Seconds by Maud Dromgoole (VAULT/Paines Plough Roundabout), Brutal Cessation by Milly Thomas (Assembly Edinburgh/Theatre 503), Spine (Underbelly Edinburgh/Soho Theatre/UK Tour – Fringe First Winner), Tether by Isley Lynn (Underbelly Edinburgh), and FreeFall by Vinay Patel (Pleasance Islington – Nominated for Off West End Best Director).

Cast to be confirmed.

Join us on Thu 28 Jul, 7.30pm for Mercury Reads: Bindweed by Martha Loader. Tickets £5 – book now to avoid disappointment.  Find out more and book: read all content and trigger warnings

With special thanks to Jo, Briony and their team at Suffolk Constabulary, and Glenn at Iceni for their support with this project.

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