“The role of Bella is so silent that it seems she does nothing but watches and studies”.
Children do not choose their parents, and will love them, regardless of what they do, until they are old enough to know or understand otherwise. That’s call unconditional love.
In VENT the character of BELLA symbolises all children who experience violence in their homes.
Child psychology tells us that children form their identity, values and self-esteem between the ages of 0-5 years. These are intense formative years where children learn through play, multisensory experiences, touching, tasting, feeling, climbing, and watching and interacting with other people. However, a child’s growth can be thwarted by witnessing abuse, malnutrition and exposure to various other harmful circumstances. This can affect the formation of the brain, their ability to learn at school, their ability to form words, communicate their emotions, and to have confidence in their own abilities.
Many children witness domestic violence every day – whether it is verbal arguments, physical violence, or the consequences of financial abuse. BELLA was originally cast as a 5 year old in the rehearsed reading of VENT in 2012. However, she was played by an adult, as I had concerns of exposing a child actor to the issues in the play, and was not resourced to take on a child actor.
In the current version of VENT, BELLA is grown up, left school and started university. She still lives with her parents DAN and ROSA and narrates the story of their relationship during the play.
At times BELLA seems a passive or silent witness to the interaction of her parents.
My understanding is that Bella has witnessed the turbulent relationship between her parents since she was a child. In some way, she has become conditioned to witnessing their behaviours – maybe as a survival mechanism – and although she despises the violence, she stills loves her mother and father and individuals.
BELLA is like a parent to her mother and father. She cares for them, she tries and stands between their fights, she is always trying to rescue, patch things up, and keep her family together. This means BELLA had to grow up fast to survive – as many children do every day.
BELLA is a symbol of forgiveness and unconditional love
It’s amazing how resilient children can be, when facing extreme adversity on a daily basis. Luckily for BELLA she has survived and is clever enough to get into university, which can broaden her world beyond her family situation, and also broaden her social networks and potential to have positive relationships.
There is still a commonly held idea to “never get involved” in marital problems, as it is a “private matter”.
Often the best way to assist someone who is experiencing domestic violence, is to keep talking to them, keep the communication lines open, forgive them for not returning your calls, keep the door open, keep inviting them to events, celebrations, and social events or even a simple meal or cup of coffee. This can help them to have a break, have some breathing space, see other options, see examples of positive relationships, and hopefully and most importantly have people to turn too when and if they are ready to make a change or decision about their living situation. Those decisions can be very hard for someone who has experienced continual abuse in the home.
You may know someone like BELLA. If you do, keep talking to her, keep listening to her; invite her out for a coffee, offer to carry her books, or to help her study. Encourage her, tell her she is beautiful, notice if she changes her hair, or wears a new outfit – and tell her you noticed – and let her know that you are her friend, and be trustworthy.
Until tomorrow, stay safe and snug!
Director, PUMP Theatre