Putting women’s voices and experiences at the forefront of the discourse, writer, theatre–maker and artist Luca Rutherford (Learning How to Die, ARC Stockton; Hold On Let Go; Summerhall) presents an impassioned project combining theatre and public art.
You Heard Me is a powerful one–woman play about refusing to be silent, and is complemented by You Heard Us, a public photography installation that creates a platform for women to take up space, be honoured and be listened to.
Are you listening? You Heard Me is a true story that celebrates a single moment of noise that allowed Luca to escape an attack. This moment made her understand what it means to take up space, to heal and be part of something much bigger than herself. A one–woman piece about refusing to be silenced and the power to re–make, re–mould and disrupt, You Heard Me is for anyone who has been underestimated, told to shut up or been afraid to walk home. This show exists because without using her voice, Luca wouldn’t.
Luca comments, You Heard Me is rooted in a story of sexual violence, specifically of escaping rape. The focus of You Heard Me is the necessity of community in the act of listening. I want to draw attention to the relationship between harnessing the power of your voice, being heard and in return listening to others. Ultimately You Heard Me asks how you are listening? Resilience becomes greater when it, and ourselves, are held in community. My intention in making You Heard Me is to use my experience to forensically look at the moments of fight between a woman and male violence, and to speak out about it. And in the same breath not to replicate trauma on stage or leave the audience feeling flattened after a harrowing experience at the theatre. Humour and a sense of play are used, without undermining the severity of this topic, to explore my messy and complicated
relationship to relearning how to take up space, apologise less and speak up. This show is about the art of listening and the power of your voice; we are not hiding from the darkness of this story but celebrating the power of community in processing it.
The ARC Stockton Production is co–commissioned by The Albany, Battersea Arts Centre, Cambridge Junction, Northern Stage and Theatre in the Mill. You Heard Me is a collaboration between Luca Rutherford, Maria Crocker, Tanuja Amarasuriya, Melanie Wilson, Bethany Wells, Stephanie McMann and Jenni Jackson. Written and performed by Luca Rutherford. Directed by Maria Crocker (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Northern Stage; Little Bits of Light, National Theatre Studio/ARC Stockton).
Dramaturgy by Tanuja Amarasuriya (Out of Sorts, Theatre503; The Paper Man, Improbable/Soho Theatre). Sound Score by Melanie Wilson (little scratch, Hampstead Theatre; Extinct, Theatre Royal Stratford East. Designed by Bethany Wells (Faces in The Crowd, Gate Theatre; War of The Worlds, Rhum + Clay). Movement Direction by Stephanie McMann (Nora, Sadler’s Wells; His Dark Materials, BBC; The Sandman, Netflix), with initial movement input from Jenni Jackson.
The corresponding installation You Heard Us is a large–scale photography project all about
celebrating women, listening to women, and women defiantly taking up public spaces. It will explore these important themes through a collaborative process between Luca and 40 local women in Stockton, Deptford (London), Bradford and Cambridge. Following conversations about the women’s voice and sense of power, Luca will work with local photographers Jade Sweeting, Jemima Yong, Nudrat Afza and Camilla Greenwell to take the women’s portraits and collectively decide where to display them on buildings around each locality.
You Heard Me tours next week. I have the wildest fullest appreciation and respect for the team @Tanuja_A @maria_crocker @MelanieWilson14 @stephmcmann @GupwellBethany @preparedtobe @RoshanConn1 @annabelturpin, Michael Morgan @MGTuckey who are keep this show on the road 💖🔥🧡 pic.twitter.com/EVYRdNvYVS
— Luca Rutherford (She/Her) (@LucaRutherford) February 7, 2022
In a world where those who shout the loudest are the ones who are heard, Luca takes the intimacy of a photograph and plasters it on a large scale to be loud without shouting. Wordless images, seen by thousands, will show how small moments of quiet can be powerful. Luca invites the community participants and artistic collaborators to contribute to take up public space, ultimately asking the public to harness them and their power, and question whether we are listening and being listened to.
With the core of You Heard Us rooted in intersectional feminism, representation within the
photographs is key. The project is about listening to women: when the team say women, they mean anyone who identifies in any way with the notion of womanhood, some or all of the time.
Luca Rutherford comments, I have come up with this idea because with portraits in public spaces you can make a lot of noise in a very quiet way. I often find that we listen to the people who shout the loudest, but I want this project to make space for anyone who feels quiet as well as loud.
The process for the participants is the point at which ‘art’ is created, whilst the practice of the amplification of voices, of their physicality and of visibility in public space becomes the ‘art’. Participants become their own canvas and their own medium for expression, empowering them to find strength in their quietness, to advance the quality of their daily lives and across whole communities. These small ripples of change become the inspiration for wider impact.