A theatre review of “Justice? Or…Just Me? The Bite” written, produced and performed by Lorinda Hawkins Smith, directed by Patricia Bean-Kane, percussion by Steve McGill, Lorraine Morland and Steve Taylor at Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest.
“Justice? Or…Just Me? The Bite” is a challenging and powerful solo play with an intricate combination of video, audio recordings, flash backs and riveting live performance portraying spiraling and heartbreaking moments in a life.
The life in question is Dominique’s and hers is a story of a fall. A fall from a comfortable middle class life to a relationship full of harrowing abuse by her husband and then by the police Dominique called herself to save her. From there it recounts how the legal system failed her and her own family turned their backs culminating in the loss of custody of her two children.
Ms Hawkins Smith performs this play with aching realism, telling Dominique’s story in a series of repeated echoing themes. Out of time, out of order, out of her mind. A pattern of whys, a sprinkling of memories, an almost chaotic mix of pivotal moments leading up to the terrible results of her endless victimisation.
Her husband was white. Dominique is Black. Does this impact her treatment? Of course it does. No one believes her. She is assumed to be the aggressor, the problem, the bad mother. It’s more than infuriating, it’s actually a well documented and sadly common occurrence within the broken legal system in this country.
It’s a lot. But then the story highlights a chronic and sickening problem for women accused of abuse by their spouses for the sole purpose of retaining custody of the children and punishing the mother. So, it needs to be a lot…
Lorinda Hawkins Smith wrote “Justice? Or…Just Me? The Bite” as the first in a series of books (https://www.amazon.com/Justice-Just-Lorinda-Hawkins-Smith-ebook/dp/B097MFXPJK ) and this stage adaptation began life as a 10-minute monologue workshopped on Skid Row and was then adapted through REDCATS’s Studio into the mixed media piece it is today.
“Justice? Or…Just Me? The Bite” is a tough, in-your-face performance. Full of nuance and deep understanding of the levels of despair, pain, desperation and defeat.
Lorinda Hawkins Smith takes us on a journey fraught with sadness and frustration and laced with the very human reaction to every onslaught, humour.
There’s no redemption, no triumphant ending. The story is difficult and poignant and true. It’s not tied up neatly with a bow for us any more than it was for any number of women to whom this has happened. All those children deprived of their mothers, how devastating.
As a mother myself, I can imagine how traumatic this must be. And now, thanks to this play, I know more about how difficult this country makes it to navigate legally. This country is many things, but fair is often not one of them. Money as usual is the the deciding factor. Mothers are often home with the kids and not financially able to provide for them, or to hire good lawyers to defend themselves. So the judgements go to the fathers. Regardless of the abuse. Changing this repeated outcome will only happen if we are reminded again and again that this is happening now. And all the time.
So, thank you, Lorinda, for taking this pain and making something of it. Something to force us to witness and therefore to tell the story ourselves. So perhaps we will look with respect and kindness on the women it directly effects and help them right this wrong.
Where to Watch
You can watch “Justice? Or…Just Me? The Bite” online for the next few weeks and I highly recommend that you do.
Bobby Buck – Videographer
Vincent Spean – Digital Artist
Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition – DVHSC@downtownwomenscenter.org