Flowers Aren't Enough written and performed by Naomi Ackerman. 2002 National Multicultural Festival at The Street Theatre StudioFebruary 12-14, 2002 8pm.
Naomi Ackerman, as an experienced professional actor, was engaged by the Jerusalem Ministry of Welfare to research, write and perform a theatre-in-education piece dealing with domestic violence and abuse. Flowers Aren't Enough weaves together elements of true stories of women in refuges in Israel into the fictional Michal's story of her ideals of love and marriage destroyed by a lover and husband for whom power over her is a social necessity. Verbal put downs, anger and steadily escalating physical violence are played out between bouts of apparently real contrition, promises never to do such things to her again, and loving behaviour which leave her feeling guilty, powerless and finally suicidal.
Only at this point is her plight made visible to her parents, and only because her husband leaves her alone in the hospital for ten days, is she able to think clearly: he has no right to take her life; she has no right to take her life; and she has every right to seek professional help and to escape the cycle of violence imposed on her.
Ackerman's script and her performance of it is rivetting for all its 50 minutes, but she makes it clear, coming back on stage out of character, that the follow-up discussion of the issues in the story is the most important part of the evening. Certainly on opening night there was no limit except time constraints to the questions. In her answers, Ackerman was able to draw on her experiences in performing some 400 times, to women's groups, police, prisoners, high school students in Israel (where she stated that dealing with men's use of violence for power is an "interesting issue"), in USA, in India and now in Australia, with her current tour to take in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Hawaii and North America.
She has found everywhere the same conflict over the assumption of power by men over women, with different responses in different cultures, according to the opportunities for women and men to seek professional help, and for women to leave abusive situations. Her work is a powerful and sobering message: respect requires restraint from violence, physical and especially verbal, for "words can destroy your soul".
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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