The Brighton-based charity Mankind have produced a play for the Brighton Fringe which focusses on raising awareness of their work and the sensitive subject they tackle. The charity was created in 2000 after the need emerged for an agency in Sussex that could directly offer help and services to men who had experienced sexual abuse. Mankind offer a structured programme of face-to-face counselling and therapeutic groups to men over the age of 18 who have suffered from rape and sexual abuse at any point of their life. The services are all offered at low or no cost and act as a staple part of the counselling network in Brighton. The charity, and its director Martyn Sullivan, is a founding member of new national organisation for men, The Male Survivors Partnership. The partnership’s collective aim is to ensure that male victims and survivors have the right support and help they individually need.
The play Mankind have produced, ‘GROOMED’, is written and performed by Patrick Sandford. An autobiographical piece, the play tells the story and experiences of childhood sexual abuse. According to the team behind it, “The piece weaves in three stories of a betrayed schoolboy, a Japanese soldier and the inventor of the saxophone to present an hour of life enhancing theatre”. Martyn Sullivan, the CEO of Mankind and co-founder, said that the play was first produced for the 2016 Fringe and won three awards on it’s first showing. He further said “”A first, we were very nervous as to how the public would respond to a play about sexual abuse. However, Patrick’s writing and performance is so compelling and beautiful, I knew that we had to do it and it’s fantastic to see that it is still so popular with the public.”
Theatre, as an art form, often acts as an equal and neutral ground to discuss social and political issues and in this case, Sullivan argued, it is the perfect place “to challenge the stereotypes and change the way we think and talk about male sexual abuse. This is not ‘issue-based’ theatre but theatre that presents an issue in an entertaining and accessible way. We hope that the more we break the silence on sexual abuse, more people will be able to come forward and get help”
When the piece first showed at he 2016 Fringe Festival, Sandi Toksvig described it as “one of the most moving pieces I have ever seen. I left the theatre educated and entertained – a most rare experience”. It’s in Brighton for one night only and 90% of the tickets have already gone so act fast.