In summer 2019 we collaborated with poet, playwright and performer, Tanaka Mhishi on the development of his extraordinary new work, a visceral excavation of the impact of sexual assault on young men, entitled This is How it Happens.
The work aims to shine a light on the hidden everyday of the many different men living in the wake of sexual violence, as they navigate love, health, sex, work and fatherhood.
The creative development days at Chats Palace in late August culminated in an intimate sharing of four stories inspired by lived experiences, charting a journey from deep in the forests of trauma out to the clean air of hope, visibility and recovery. Tanaka presents the process below in his own words:
“I had the great pleasure this summer of partnering with Vital Xposure on a short R&D of This Is How it Happens, a semi-autobiographical show exploring men’s experiences of surviving sexual violence.
I began the first drafts of This Is How it Happens in late 2014, ten months after being sexually assaulted. Since then it has been waiting, quietly and patiently, for the right team; for a community which could support me as both an artist and a survivor. So many discussions around abuse and harm are happening in the light of #MeToo, but I knew that if I were going to pursue this project I would have to do it in the safest, most nourishing way- for both me and the audience.
Vital Xposure have been there every step of the way and I found myself constantly astounded by their patience and support. Putting together this stage of the project taught me a lot about my own capabilities and limits and I don’t mind admitting that I both over- and underestimated myself in certain roles. Julie McNamara and the rest of the Vital Xposure team handled all this with aplomb, whether it was coaching me through a pre-show mental health dip or helping out when I was quivering over spreadsheets.
We finished the three day development process with a small showing. It’s difficult to believe how uplifting it was to share difficult material like this with an audience, to find them willing to process and parse it, to hear the increasingly enthusiastic engagement in our Q&A afterwards. And I marvelled at how emotionally supported the performance itself was. It set a benchmark for the next steps.
I am so privileged to be have worked with a group capable of weaving passion and compassion together so seamlessly.
And as for the next steps? Watch this space.
We were thrilled to be involved in this process and it has been a privilege to work alongside Tanaka on this piece of work.
The intimate sharing event offered some touching responses from attendees which have positively fuelled us for the project’s future steps. We are sharing some of these responses below:
“Very powerful, intense piece! Well done!”
“It provided the insight of the inner world also how the trauma was played externally.”
“Becoming aware of the silence of this issue, the lack of narrative in media on this.”
“It was important to tell the impact beyond the assaults.”
R&D Creative Team
Writer / Performer / Lead Artist: Tanaka Mhishi
Director: Julie McNamara
Movement Consultant: Imogen Butler-Cole
Photography: Copy to the Writer Photography