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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Q&A : Ruckus

Wildcard Theatre’s Ruckus is a compelling, unsettling one-woman thriller exploring the suppression and destruction caused by coercive control within a relationship. Written and performed by Jenna Fincken, the moments that make up Ruckus are inspired by real women and real stories, making use of reports from leading charities such as SafeLives as well as the work of leading sociologists, investigative journalists and researchers tackling domestic abuse and coercive control, to create an accurate and experiential play.

It’s a powerful and moving topic and the play puts it across in a very captivating way. We asked Jenna a few questions to get a better understanding of what it takes to tackle such a strong subject.

Do you think that the promise of love often leads people into a trap?

I think the promise of love is heavily coated in patriarchal regulations. This sets a standard of acceptable behaviour not only in relationships, but in life. That men should be strong, unemotional and logical whereas women should be depended, nurturant and expressive. This construct inherently encourages dominance of men in power. So, with this inequality, coercive control tactics in loving relationships can happen seamlessly, often leaving the victim/survivor not knowing they’re trapped.

The play is based on real experiences and is the result of some thorough investigations by yourself. What was the most surprising thing that you learned throughout your investigations?

Learning about humiliated fury in men and the impact this has in coercive control relationships.

Humiliated fury is a very dangerous emotional state in which one abuses and blames others in order to protect themselves from feeling shameful and powerless. As Jess Hill, a ground-breaking investigative journalist, once put it, “Trauma-based entitlement is very common in people who are abusive. When that entitlement is thwarted, there is this notion of being defied, of being humiliated – of being shamed. This is what has been called ‘humiliated fury’ – when insecurity, toxic shame and entitlement combine.”

This concept then led me to James Gilligan’s work, a psychiatrist and author who has over 35 years of experience working with violent male perpetrators in prisons. He came to the idea that all violence begins with shame. That the very purpose of violence is to banish shame and replace it with pride.

From this, it helped me to develop a deeper understanding of the character Ryan, Lou’s partner in Ruckus. His motivation, his insecurities and his biggest fears.

Would you say that learning more about the steps that lead women on the path to becoming victims of psychological violence can help many more realise that they might be already subjected to some form of coercive control and escape the toxic relationships at an earlier stage?

One hundred percent. We must have awareness about what exactly coercive control is, as its fundamental in not only preventing women from entering coercive controlled relationships but is how we’re going to confront this issue as a whole. We also owe it to the victims/survivors who are sharing their stories and trauma in order to make change to help others not be in the same situation.

In your play, Lou, the main character, is fully aware that the audience is watching her. Do you think many women wish that there would be an audience watching their personal ordeal and be called to intervene and end it?

In my research, I noticed there was a common theme of victims/survivors fearing that they wouldn’t be believed, or they didn’t know what was happening to them was abuse in the first place. How the tiny little micromanagement could turn into full blown gaslighting. How do you even begin to explain this to someone that is not in that experience?

The wonderful thing about theatre is you can ponder on Peter Brook’s ending message in The Empty Space - the theatre “if”. The reason I started writing Ruckus was with the question in mind, what if Lou could use the audience to be her reliable witness to her relationship? Does it help or not? That answer is explored in the play.

What would you say is the most vulnerable age for coercive abuse? Or is there not one?

I think the most vulnerable age group is childhood and early adulthood. We can all relate that this is the time in our life where we’re looking to others for guidance and protection. We certainly at current don’t equip the younger generation to look out for people to use their power to abuse them. Especially to be aware of coercive control; that’s basic goal is to strip one's independence. So, for me, this age group is very vulnerable to coercive abuse.

Yet it’s important to say, coercive control can happen to anyone, at any time, at any age.

Are you still a believer in true love?

I’d be lying if I said no…especially as I’m getting married at the end of the year.

Love is a wonderful and beautiful thing, a complete joy to life. With this strong emotion, I think understanding the effect of being told that you’re loved is very powerful. And sadly, it can leave you vulnerable to abusive people.

So, I’d say I don’t see the aim of true love being to find someone to complete you. I see true love as finding someone where you both respectfully enhance each other's life.

Ruckus, Summerhall, Cairns Lecture Theatre, 3.30pm, 3-28 August (not 15 or 22)


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