In the absence of silence begins its Welsh tour today, returning to the place and the people who inspired it five years ago. We caught up with its co-creators Christine Niering and Dave Carey, to learn more about how the piece was bought to life. 

The process of creating in the absence of silence began five years ago at a Creu Cymru conference in Wales. It was there that Chickenshed met Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, an artistic director based in the Welsh county of Meirionnydd. He had been running workshops with children in refuges and between us we hatched a plan - to bring Chickenshed’s approach of inclusion and creativity to the furthest reaches of Wales and run workshops with women who had survived domestic abuse.

Ian got the South Gwynedd Domestic Abuse Services on board, Creu Cymru secured Arts Council of Wales funding, and so, in April 2012, three of us found ourselves in a rugby club house in Dolgellau in the shadow of Snowdonia. What transpired was a remarkable two hours of workshops. We didn’t know what to expect. How would the women react to a bunch of Londoners turning up and doing ‘dancing and acting’? We needn’t have worried. Two hours of laughter, tears, darkness, hope and joy convinced us that here in this room were stories that needed to be told and emotions that needed to be expressed. It wasn’t, we realised, about the abuse: “We’re not victims we’re survivors,” we were told very quickly. This story was about the human spirit and how, when it is brought as low as it can get, the need to survive, to share, to support, to love, to bond becomes a greater force than the hurt and pain that preceded it.

Over a two-year period we worked with these women, drawing forth stories and feelings and more tears and laughter. At the end of the project we performed, with some of the participants alongside us, the first version of in the absence of silence at Theatr Ardudwy.

The developed show you now see was first performed in London in 2016. Our designer Angela Simpson brought an approach to our process that helped develop the show beyond the words on paper; the actresses, through director Joseph Morton, allowed the characters to live within them, embodying the women’s stories while bringing their own selves to bear on the truths conveyed. And so the organic process continued.

Creu Cymru worked with us to scale this initiative up, and through Big Lottery funding we have now embarked on a programme of shows and workshops across Wales.

Our deepest thanks go to all the women who took part in the workshops, in Meirionnydd and beyond. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be clouded in secrecy and swept under the carpet. Home should be the safest place.