‘Irony’ as cast of sexual harassment play are harassed by white van men during rehearsal breaks

During a rehearsal and performance for a play about sexual harassment, the female cast who had been taking quick breaks outside, were harassed on the street twice.

Eve Tinsley, Rachel Vincent and another member of the cast already have their owned lived experience of sexual harassment like 97 per cent of 18-24 year old females in the UK according to UN Women.

“It shouldn’t be a common universal experience,” said Eve, 22, who was catcalled on her break during rehearsals and then on the day of the show.

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The play itself is called 97%, exploring this shocking figure and how women impacted by sexual harrassment are often left voiceless.

Eve Tinsley, who is one of the actors, writers and producers of 97%, had been standing on a busy street in the centre of Wakefield when the first incident happened. Here she appears in the play.

It shares how sexism and sexualisation like catcalling creates an environment in which even more serious offences like sexual assault and rape occur.

Eve, who is one of the actors, writers and producers of 97%, had been standing on a busy street in the centre of Wakefield when the first incident happened.

On an “unbearably hot” day the cast had stepped outside to get some fresh air when men in a passing van on Westgate catcalled out of their window.

Eve said: “We looked at each other and while it's not funny we laughed because of how ironic this has happened.

The cast of 97% at the Mechanics Theatre in Wakefield with the Mayor of Wakefield

“We are doing a play about safety and women.”

Eve set up Hit Like a Girl Theatre with Lucy Tranter, who has been pivotal in writing and creating the play 97%, as a response to their own lived experiences, but also as a reaction to and reflection on the horrific murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa - and the resulting protests.

The theatre start-up worked with with Empath Action CIC with a grant from the Mayor’s Safer Community Fund to fund the play, which charts the devastating impact sexual assault has on women and their relationships.

After their first hard-hitting but helpful show which encourages audience participation at the end on the themes discussed, the cast could not believe that on the day of the final performances they would experience harassment yet again.

Cast of 97% had been standing outside the theatre when the second incident happened.

“Again there was me and two others in the production.

“We were outside getting some air and there was a man walking across the other side of the street on Wood Street just shouting at us.

“He didn’t really have anything particular to say, he was just trying to get our attention.”

When the cast ignored him, he persisted at first and then eventually gave up.

“The fact that it’s happened twice and just whilst we’ve been rehearsing or performing.

“Point proven, absolute point proven as to why things need to change.”

Empath Action CIC’s Co-director Steven Busfield, 36, who had been inside the studio at the time where they were rehearsing said he was horrified at what had happened.

He said: “We create a safe space but we can't control what goes on outside the studio.

“You worry that women are so used to dealing with it, as the cast had initially tried to brush off what had happened because they were in shock.”

Steven added that one of the legacies of the project had already been to create male advocates for female rights to learn how to challenge this.

Steven added: “People say it’s not all men but it’s up to enough men so all men need to solve it.”

Together Hit Like a Girl Theatre start-up and Empath Action CIC have started to connect the dots between organisations by promoting the Ask Angela campaign which is popular in nearby shopping centre The Ridings and they encourage other outlets to adopt the scheme too.

Ask for Angela is a national campaign in which bars and venues sign up to a campaign where people can use the codeword to staff to help them when in danger and uncomfortable situations in an effort to keep people safe from sexual assault.

A staff member will then help escort that woman to a different room and ensure they get home safely.