Review: Tulips, South Hill Park Arts Centre
4.0Overall Score

When faced with a case of domestic abuse, whether we like to admit it or not, there is an inherent bias within us which causes us to take an immediate standpoint on the situation. Some back the victim, whilst others dispel the claim entirely, but there is often more going on that meets the eye and often the victim isn’t even aware that they are being abused.

Inspired by true events, Tulips is a radio drama that explores the complexities of domestic violence and the stigma that clouds the word ‘victim’ when referencing a man. Produced by Secret Stories C.I.C, the play revolves around the fictional support group, Tulips, a fix-him/save-him service for male perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse. Christine, who runs the service, and Jason, a victim who is still finding his path, struggle as they try to help a new visitor who is in a volatile relationship but unsure if he needs the guiding hand of Tulips.

Victoria Paterson, as Christine, sets the attitude of the play throughout, both within the scenes as well as direct to audience. Whilst her attitude in-scene can be quite assured, her narration is careful not to prescribe too much, leading the action with honest and open questions which help the audience to come to their own conclusions. Paterson’s performance gives an authentic representation of someone really trying to do her best when carrying the weight of the world, and she is likeable in how she holds herself accountable.

The story is a constantly evolving landscape, presenting the information initially as you would see it from the outside – challenging us to keep an open mind even as we make immediate verdicts of guilt. The cast (Belinda Duffy, Peter Tavener & Michael Beakhouse) make room for this natural evolution by delivering the text with sincerity but without any effect that would sway our opinion. Each actor brings an excellent depth and vulnerability to these sensitive scenes, adeptly performed.

Whilst the story and characters have been created by Beakhouse, he wrote them from detailed research and interviews with victims of abuse, adding reference to the real-life domestic violence court cases of Johnny Depp and Caroline Flack through radio broadcasts in the play. He also navigates the intricacies the play with a great deal of care and attention, ensuring that this piece is about removing preconceptions of gender from the conversation, rather than saying “women can abuse too”.

Whilst I did not see the original stage performances of Tulips in 2018, there is a theatrical intimacy in this version that lends itself well to an audio performance. Both thought provoking and necessary, Tulips’s gripping narrative and clear character progression leave a ripple in the waters of my mind.

Tulips is now available to stream free until 31 May. For more information and to watch, please visit South Hill Park Arts Centre’s website.