Review in the South Wales Argus
Revelation: The Riverfront
11:11am Friday 13th March 2009
By Jackie Davies
Patrick Jones' controversial play, Revelation played to a capacity audience at Newport's Riverfont in a performance requested by the British Council to assess it for selection at this year's Edinburgh showcase.
Raw, edgy and vital, the production pulled no punches as it tackled the virtually taboo subject of domestic abuse against males.
Featuring a cast of two locally based actors, Stacey Daly (Dionne) and Nathan Sussex (Steve) it charted the destruction of their marriage as Steve gradually became psychologically tormented and pysically abused by his wife.
Unnervingly honest and at times deeply uncomfortable, the play was wholly dependant on the credibility of the two actors as initially Jones' gave little indication of the reason for the relationship meltdown (even though the discord of James Dean Bradfield's accompanying score was more than a hint of the trouble ahead!) It was only after the birth of a child and Dionne's reference to being 'another victim' that pieces of the jigsaw fell into place and the recurring pattern of belittlement, arguement and beatings came to the fore.
Whilst convincingly highlighting a difficult subject, Jones nevertheless also stood in judgement. Compromise was never an issue and the play remained an angry plea for the victim.
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
For all the expletive ridden psychological warfare throughout Patrick Jones’ latest play – a brutally candid semi autobiographical account of a man suffering from domestic abuse – the truism “men don’t talk” shows how taboo the subject remains.
Jones has never shied from challenging subject matter and Revelation finds him in a rich vein of form. But despite the religious subtext in the title and writhing screenplay, there’s little redemption to be found.
Thirty-something Welshman Steve, played by the excellent Nathan Sussex, is piecing his life back together after being made homeless. When he meets Stacey Daly’s sympathetic Dionne his life finds new meaning. But an unplanned pregnancy soon escalates to physical and psychological abuse fuelled by postnatal depression.
Dionne’s resentment of everything Steve does is total. Her belittling of his every interest and studying come in implacable torrents of abuse. She taunts him, tells him he’s worthless and hits him for being him. This is domestic drama without the kitchen sink, a life that’s become existing.
“Jihad in the bedroom” is how Steve describes his life. His unflinching monologues describe the wall of silence from friends and the police when the desperation of his situation becomes too much and he speaks out.
“When someone hits you, you start to believe in some glamorous afterlife,” he explains in the play’s only nod to resolution. Aided by James Dean Bradfield’s brooding melancholic soundtrack, Faction Collective’s Revelation is a work that cuts straight through the bone.
darkness is where the stars are
(A book of poems by Patrick Jones)
A Review By Michael Kelligan
Patrick Jones has an urgent message for all of us. It is the artist’s duty to feel and express life much more strongly and with greater clarity than us ordinary mortals. The words rage out of his passionate, hurt and sensitive being like rounds from a machine-gun, though I know he would not welcome the military image. “… and rucksacks scream the word of god/place the veil, the hood, the orange boiler suit/to mark your ground and plead for enemies and infidels/ and poppies flower in spilledblood sommed silence/as taleban lords harvest opium crops/to numb the masses/like bloodless cruxifixion upon wooden crosses/and bush declares god is on our side/ and blair expects significant… losses…”
His poems are pieces of strong sculpture rhythmically carved from the words as he puts them down onto the page, often deliberately ignoring punctuation and capitalisation in his pressing need to express his intensely felt thoughts. You need to stand fore-square to read his poems as each carefully hewn word is struck and hurled, piercingly at you. There is a feeling that each poem falls like a fast stream of consciousness direct from his frontal lobes on to his manuscript but I suspect quite a bit of refining goes on before the work is finally completed.
He suffers for every child that was ever abused, but it is also the abused father forbearing “the nails in his cheek”… to “cradle (his son’s) warm body,” All Patrick’s poems are personal poems, all poets poems are personal poems. Poems arising out of domestic violence, in all its terrifying and abusive forms, always with a very strong concern for the safety of children, outbursts of helplessness. No one could possibly argue with his acutely expressed horror of female genital mutilation (in a poem he dedicates to former super-model and campaigner Waris Dirie) , with protests against the destruction of the environment and we may share a wry smile as his study of a valley’s comprehensive school suggests: “shouldn’t education be/ about teaching children/how,/not/what/to think?”
A very personal relationship fires one of the poems. It seems to have a rocky start but ends with some comfort, a feeling not often found in this strong, beautifully worded book. Words gleaming like bright red poppies in a bomb-filled twenty first century field.
The majority of the poems stem from factual horrific world experiences; one can stand back and applaud the messenger, letting Patrick Jones do the suffering for us. A few wrong headed people might want to shoot this messenger but most of us will want to cheer him on. The magic of poetry comes from the imagery that the poet creates although some of Patrick’s images are very harrowing and disturbing they also posses a glittering diamond clarity that tell us that he is indeed a true and magical poet. The suffering continues, the music is atonal carrying a Schoenberg ‘beat’ and the disquieting, intuitive feel of Stockhausen.
Jones reflects on one ‘commandment’ “Thou shalt not kill” and suffers for its abuse and rails at its justification almost as much from the secular establishments as from those whose theistic philosophy is equally defied and justified by the actions they take. A sadness emerges from him as it must from this concerned very loving and compassionate being that is this poet, overwhelming in his emotions, in his reactions to the terrors of the world around him and the hypocrisy from the good men who continue the killing. This is as much a killing, a demeaning of the human sprit as is in the blood strewn world where the poet and all of us reside.
Despite the rage, the anger and the sometime despair there runs a message of hope, a distant light at the end of a very long tunnel. Some ‘christian’ people have raised some strong objections to this book and yes some of his images may hurt them. If instead of a knee-jerk reaction to a few sentences I urge them to read the whole book carefully, and it is a book that needs and deserves to be read carefully; they would find that Patrick Jones has as great a concern for the human sprit as anyone might.
He is a warm hearted, family man with a great love and care for his family and all the people around him. An iconic contemporary Welsh poet and playwright, he lives in a modest house living a modest life. Popes and Kings and Bishops are still living in glittering palaces!
Below is an eloquent article by Peter Black. Thank you.
Democracy not fundamentalism
Published 12 December 2008
Welsh Assembly member Peter Black reports on his battle to protect freedom of speech from what he believes is an anti-democratic Christian group
Thursday was a good day for democracy in Wales. Patrick Jones came to the Welsh Assembly to read from his controversial book of poems, 'Darkness Is Where The Stars Are', whilst 250 Christians sang and prayed outside.
As one of the sponsors of this reading I felt that I had a moral duty to arrange it. Patrick Jones may have sought debate with Christian Voice and others over poems that they consider to be blasphemous and obscene but that does not justify them seeking to shout him down or forcing the cancellation of the launch of his book in Waterstones.
This was never about the poems. I did not set out to upset anybody of any religion. However, I could not stand by and allow a small minority to trample over basic rights to freedom of speech and expression. The National Assembly for Wales is the home of Welsh democracy, it has responsibilities for culture and literature, so it is the ideal place to stage a reading.
Freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend. Once people are allowed to apply their own subjective values to others then we are on a slippery slope to dictatorship. I very much regret that people were offended but the principles involved in putting on this event were paramount.
What has disturbed me throughout this process has been the attitude of Christian Voice and their supporters. They are not democrats, they do not believe in the freedom of thought and expression. In fact their leader, Stephen Green has said that he believes that we are living in a theocracy.
Everybody knows the famous Monty Python sketch in which 'nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition'. Well, if Christian Voice had their way it would be re-established in this country and anybody who offends them or takes the name of their saviour in vain will be silenced.
Another disturbing aspect of their campaign was its Islamphobia. Jesus was in fact a prophet of Islam as well. And yet all of the e-mails I have received made reference to Islam as an essentially vengeful and violent religion. This is not the case and yet that did not stop Christian Voice attacking Muslims as violent extremists in order to justify their own extremism.
And then there were the Assembly Members who supported Christian Voice, a number of Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs and the entire Conservative group. They enjoy the privileges afforded by our democracy, they are elected to defend our freedoms and yet they cannot see beyond their mailbag. They believe in 'freedom but...'. How would they feel if it were applied to them? They would be outraged and quite rightly, so why do they think they can apply caveats to other people?
What this event proved to me was that in a healthy democracy both sides can have their say. What I found most disturbing was that if some people who like to believe they are democrats had had their way then Patrick Jones would have been gagged and his book banned. That sort of action can never be allowed in this country.
"In every village there is a torch, the teacher and there is also the extinguisher, the clergyman"
AM fails to block poet from Assembly reading
Nov 25 2008 Western Mail
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY officials said yesterday they could not stop a reading by a writer whose controversial poetry has angered Christian protesters.
An Assembly member urged the Presiding Officer to follow the example of booksellers Waterstone’s and halt an appearance by Patrick Jones.
Jones was invited to give a reading at the Assembly when Waterstone’s cancelled a book signing at its Cardiff branch this month after a complaint by the group Christian Voice.
The company said it took steps to “prevent a disorderly event in the interests of our customers and staff”.
Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black asked Jones to read from his book, Darkness Is Where The Stars Are, to make sure the poet was not “gagged”.
Independent AM Trish Law wrote to Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas to ask him to stop the event on December 11, saying: “I am disgusted that, two weeks before Christmas Day, it is proposed to proceed with the reading of blasphemous poems which are an insult to Jesus Christ and to all his followers.” She was “bitterly disappointed” her plea had been turned down.
Assembly Commission chief executive Claire Clancy said: “Neither officials nor the Assembly Commission make judgments on the nature or purpose of these events, except to ensure they would not give rise to any legal problems.
“Assembly buildings are public buildings, and secular in character. It is our responsibility to ensure that events sponsored by any Assembly Members are always allowed to take place without fear of disruption or intimidation, while respecting the right to peaceful protest.”
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
Thursday July 10, 2008
Patrick Jones's new play was never going to make for
comfortable viewing. Confronting the taboo topic of
domestic violence against men - based on interviews
with 40 straight and gay men, and Jones's own
experience of an abusive relationship - this is raw,
angry theatre. There is one moment in particular of
shocking violence, but mostly Jones portrays the
reality of living under ceaseless, unfathomable
emotional cruelty, interspersed with physical
Revelation does not begin bleakly, though the
discordant opening hum of the music by the Manic
Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield hints at
trouble ahead. Steve (Nathan Sussex), living rough,
is invited home by Dionne (Stacey Daly), and despite
worrying asides - Dionne refers to being left by men
looking for "another victim" - life is good. After
the birth of their son, however, which seems to
trigger memories of her own sexual abuse, Dionne
turns abuser, sinking into a world in which she
berates, belittles and beats Steve. This slip into
dysfunction and brutality, with its endless
arguments and sudden physical punishments, is
horribly convincing. Both performances are
terrifically affecting, especially Daly in an
extremely challenging role.
There is, however, a tendency towards heaviness in
Jones's writing. Some lines are overwritten and he
tends to tell us things ("that's what abuse does to
you") that should be shown dramatically instead.
However, the play is well worth seeing for its
clear-eyed, powerful depiction of domestic abuse
that remains hidden behind closed doors.
By Rhiannon Harries
Sunday, 3 February 2008
The Independent on Sunday
When Johnny Keane (not his real name) left Brighton two years ago he threw his mobile phone and house keys into the sea. With nothing more than a rucksack on his back, he abandoned his old life and lived like a fugitive for the next 10 months, sleeping on friends' floors and park benches, stealing vegetables from greenhouses when he had no money to eat.
Only a few months earlier he had been enjoying a seemingly enviable lifestyle, with a successful career, a seafront home, expensive cars and enough money to send his children to private schools. But after six years of relentless psychological and physical abuse from his then-girlfriend, the mother of his children, sleeping rough was a welcome escape.
"When I told her I was leaving for the last time she nearly pulled the skin from my face," Johnny recalls. "That was pretty normal behaviour from her – clawing, kicking, spitting, punching. One night she hit me over the back of the head with a marble chopping board. That was 12 stitches. I've been attacked with scissors, knives, everything. If I fell asleep on the sofa after work, she'd put her cigarette out on me to wake me up."
If there is nothing extraordinary in the grim details of an abusive relationship, hearing a man speak candidly about his experience as a victim remains highly unusual. Although government statistics estimate that one in six men suffer some form of domestic abuse during their lifetime compared with one in four women (and there is consensus among those working in the area that men are far less likely to seek help than women, meaning the number could be even higher), violence perpetrated by women against men remains one of the least openly discussed problems in today's society.
Johnny met his girlfriend when he was 30; she fell pregnant within six weeks. "I thought it was everything I wanted," he says. "I was 30 and felt ready to be a dad. I had no idea what was in store for me. I wanted to end my life on more than one occasion.
"Pretty soon it became clear that she was using a lot of drugs and often drank too much, but she had violent tendencies even when she wasn't using. It wasn't just an incident once a month or once a week even. It was a deeply harrowing incident every day. Sometimes a dozen times a day. There was no respite, so I didn't have any time to reflect and think, 'This is wrong.'"
Johnny experienced domestic violence in all of its forms – "mental torture, manipulation and control through our children, as well as physical violence. But when you love somebody and they tell you they love you, it's very difficult to leave or pursue prosecution. She'd been a victim herself in the past. All I wanted was for it to stop."
Last month, Erin Pizzey, founder of one of the world's first women's refuges in 1971, launched an online campaign and research project to raise awareness of the issue and help men such as Johnny. "This kind of violence is one of the last taboos," she says. "Much is known and studied about male violence, but very little is written about women, and any attempt to discuss female violence is met with howls of 'blaming the victim'."
Pizzey also condemns the "shocking" lack of outlets available for men who do find the courage to speak out – a difficulty Johnny encountered first-hand when he first looked elsewhere for help.
"You don't hear men talking about this at the pub," he says. "The first time I went into the police station five years ago and said I needed help, they laughed and told me to go home. People can't believe it. She's this tiny little thing, seven stone, and I'm a big bloke, about 14 stone. In the end it took a nervous breakdown for me to seek help again. I was a wreck, I'd lost four-and-a-half stone in weight. I lost my job, my home – I lost everything."
Patrick Jones, a writer from south Wales who spent seven years with an abusive partner, believes that fear of ridicule and a lack of services dealing specifically with this problem keeps many men in violent relationships.
"I never sought medical help for any of the injuries," he says. "I just thought no one would believe me, it sounded so silly. I tried talking to my doctor about my depression and where it was coming from but he just prescribed me some tablets.
"On the few occasions I talked to other men, the response was terrible. It was like a brick wall. So I just put my head down, got on with it and lived for the tiny moments that were OK. I still don't really feel I can moan about it. It's not like I'm fighting in Iraq."
While Patrick eventually managed to make the break from his partner and move on with life on his own – writing a play, Revelation, about his experiences in the process – Johnny found salvation of a sort after coming across the ManKind Initiative, one of a handful of specialist charities in Britain dealing with male victims of domestic violence. "I was walking out of a police station one day after another incident with my partner and I saw a leaflet for ManKind. They were the first people to listen and help me and without them I wouldn't be here. I made them a promise that when I had structure and stability in my life again that I would give something back to them."
It says a lot about the general silence surrounding female domestic violence that ManKind's telephone helpline is in danger of closing in the next few months because of a lack of funding. "And it only costs £30,000 a year to keep it going," says Johnny. "It's nothing, but it's so important."
Johnny is now living in council accommodation while he seeks employment, but in the meantime he is trying to give back to those who helped him by serving as a member of a local domestic-violence forum and talking about his own experience to other victims and professionals working on the issue. It is a dramatically different life from the one he was used to, but he says he has never felt happier. "Our whole relationship, for eight years, was just total destruction. Looking back, I'm amazed I lasted so long. Now I know my kids are safe in the care of other people, I've got peace in my life for the first time in years."
For information on ManKind, call 01823 334 244 or go to www.mankind.org.uk. Patrick Jones' play, 'Revelation', is at the Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, 029 2031 1050, www.chapter.org, from 8-10 July
Domestic help: The politics of violence
Erin Pizzey, 68, campaigner and founder of Britain's first refuge for victims of domestic violence
"I've always said that domestic violence is not a gender issue, but a learnt pattern of behaviour in early childhood. It's caused me no end of trouble: I had death threats because of it. The politics of the 1970s meant that the subject was hijacked and it became all about the patriarchy. But of the first 100 women who came into the refuge, 52 were as violent as the men they left, or more so. In my case, my mother was always more physically violent than my father.
"I've written an article for femininezone.com about men who have spoken to me about violent women in their lives and appended a questionnaire for women to fill in. I want to study the responses, because there's still so little known about women's violence.
"We have to stop the war between men and women. Children have a right to be born into peace – adults can choose their relationships, children are just precipitated into them. A huge amount of money goes to women's refuges and forums but none for men. It's grossly unfair. How can we discriminate against half the population?"
REVIEW OF EVERYTHING MUST GO
HARD-HITTING doesn't even come close. Patrick Jones' debut play, "Everything Must Go", is one long scream with no sigh. It's bitter, angry, political, ugly, ruthless, painful and shocking. it is, if you'll excuse the pun, wired.
We're sat here at the Cardiff Sherman watching the second ever performance. Behind us sit James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and a roomful of expectant Manics fans, all of whom know the story by rote: Nicky's brother writes play with same title as fourth Manics album; Nicky's brother enlists the Manics' help to produce said play at Cardiff's Sherman Theatre; Nicky's brother fills said play with Manics quotes, songs, references and imagery. What they probably didn't expect was that Patrick's voice is even more intensely intense than his brother's, that the elder of the two brothers Jones is by far the least mellow. In a big f***ing way.
"Everything Must Go" is emotional carnage from start to end, systematically taking five characters and plucking off their wings with the casual brutality of a pre-teen bug killer. Drugs, unemployment, crime, self-mutilation, alienation and rage take such a toll on the play's five central characters that one dies, two may as well die and two just about scrape through intact. Well, intact-ish. Which isn't great odds, is it? In fact, Patrick's vision of modern Wales - with its post-mining culture of factory-line exploitation, woefully deficient welfare and alienating social divisiveness - is so damn bleak it makes "The Holy Bible" look like "Janet and John".
"Actually, I don't think we are that similar," James Dean Bradfield tells The Maker after the show. "It's more a 'quintessence' thing. Obviously, there's a shared belief system and all that stuff, shared values. But I think Pat really gets his points across in a different way to us."
Yeah, a nastier way. All five characters suffer horribly throughout "EMG", and their only hope lies in their ability voice their pain via the powerful, poetic monologues which bookend each scene. But, sadly, for all their rage, these speeches all too often flail about in the nebulous nihilism of punk: expressing too much hate, too little love. More than once, "EMG" reminds me of "Jubilee", one of Derek Jarman's films, and its exasperatingly directionless rage.
"I'm frustrated writing about all this stuff in a way," admits the hyperactive Patrick, "because there are no real answers. It is pretty nihilistic, I suppose, but it's also idealistic - the big phrase is "Something must grow', after all."
Rhys Miles Thomas, who plays the socially inept Curtis (a character so unsure of himself he speaks solely through song lyrics), thinks that raging against the machine is enough in itself.
"It's just nice that our generation finally has a voice," he hollers at The Maker, minutes after coming off-stage. "We've always been kicked down, treated like shit, and finally someone says, 'This is why we're like this. You f***ing educated us to be like this.'"
The "you" in question being Thatcher, Blair and the evil, Japanese factory owners who fire the father of main character A. Which would be fine if "EMG" offered any answers beyond that railing and a constant idolisation of NHS founder Aneurin Bevan; someone else to vote for, perhaps, some other way to employ the masses. As it is, it's like watching an Oxfam advert on TV, seeing kids starving, with no donation-line number at the end. And watching the character Cindy cut herself, though squirm-in-your-seat shocking, just feels like looking in a mirror which shows only spots and wrinkles - gruesomely effective, but essentially futile ...
All of which threatens to reduce "EMG" to the level of a visually brilliant Nine Inch Nails video, or it might, were the music not infinitely better throughout (numerous Manics songs plus the odd smattering of Catatonia, Stereophonics etc.) Of course, there's bound to be those who'll say Patrick Jones is merely exploiting his access to his brother's work. Utter crap, of course: the title "Everything Must Go" was originally his before Nicky half-inched it. As Rhys Miles Thomas says: "It's not a f***ing Manics tribute and it's not "Everything Must Go" the album on stage."
Sure, but there is a strange pleasure to be had watching James and Nicky squirm in their seats tonight, as the quotes and songs come thick and fast.
"I can't deny that, now and again, it felt awkward," blushes James afterwards. "But some of the songs sounded better than they'd ever, ever sounded. Ever. As if they'd been brought home and meant what they initially meant, to me."
To him, perhaps. But, though it was impossible not to be stunned by the performance, the volume and the production, maybe you had to be a Manic Street Preacher to find the meaning.