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Bottled: Radio 4

A chilling drama exposing the urgent need for places of safety for women and children

15 October, 2020 — By Lucy Popescu

Domestic abuse has escalated during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown laid bare the appalling lack of resources available to those women and children most in need of safety.

Hayley Wareham’s affecting drama, Bottled, is about the chilling consequences of cuts and closures on women’s refuges.

Conceived long before the pandemic – the stage version enjoyed a six-day run at the VAULT Festival in February 2019 – this radio adaptation, directed by Anne Isger, is timely; highlighting the urgent need for substantial government investment.

Katy (Ashna Rabheru), an ordinary teenager celebrating her 15th birthday, is over the moon when the school’s newest recruit, Bradley Lewis (Michael Ajao), “the most beautiful boy, whose shoulders you’d feel safe sitting on,” (cue cheesy music), asks her out. But her happiness is short-lived when her mum, Sharon (Clare Corbett), moves in with her controlling boyfriend Brian (Richard Corgan).

Brian is initially generous and supportive but alarm bells ring when he advises Sharon to give up work, making her financially dependent on him. They get married and it’s not long before Katy’s stepdad is showing the “piranha inside a panda” and her mum is trying to hide the bruises.

Katy’s world is torn apart when Sharon wakes her in the middle of the night so that they can escape to a refuge in Norfolk. Brian manages to track them down and an endless cycle of fear and flight takes over. It becomes impossible to find another safe space – the local refuges are full, life in the homeless hostel is precarious, and one council tells them to return “home”.

Katy is shunted between schools, her work suffers and she loses her boyfriend and her stability. After the euphoria of finding a flat in Hastings, they discover Brian has run up debts in Sharon’s name that only he can repay. Eventually they are forced to return to him with predictable and devastating consequences.

As coronavirus takes hold once again, Bottled provides a salutary warning to government to provide immediate and long-term funding to ensure all women and children at risk can access the vital support they need.

BBC Radio 4, Monday, 2pm, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000nll4

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