Violence against women in ‘Oliver!’ disturbing

I felt troubled by the script, which presented several occurrences of violence against women, sometimes treated as humour.

Though much appreciation for the Cowichan Musical Society, cast and crew, for their personal talents and the wonderful teamwork that they brought to their recent production of Oliver!, I felt troubled by the script, which presented several occurrences of violence against women, sometimes treated as humour.

The many children in the audience witnessed, and were among adults amused by, a demonstration that, if a woman says ‘no’ to a man’s sexual advances, if he persists, eventually she’ll come around and say ‘yes’. Also, we heard a drinking song where it’s a bit of good fun when a woman’s man gives her two black eyes: “It’s a fine life!”

The main female character, after being assaulted by her man and threatened with further harm by him, sings a sad and pretty “As long as he needs me, that’s where I want to be”. That becomes her death lament, for later, on stage, he kills her, as we watch.

Perhaps there was an important lesson in that for children. I wonder how many parents talked with their children about that after the show.

The musical script was written over 50 years ago, when values and humour were different. Now, hopefully, we are different.

Please, readers, don’t reply here with calls of ‘political correctness’ spoiling innocent fun.

Unwanted sexual aggression, physical harm, emotional dependency on a violent abuser, and murder aren’t fun for a healthy responsible person, nor should they be passed by without comment at least, especially when children witness.

Perhaps in future for our community, we could see a more conscientious choice of scripts for family entertainment, or perhaps a change in presentation, including an invitation for discussion and engagement, such as offered by ‘Theatre for Living’, in Vancouver.

Live theatre has potential as a powerful educator, hopefully for the good.

 

John Mowat Steven

Cowichan Valley