In Russia, 80% of violent crimes take place in the home. According to Amnesty International, each day, 36,000 women in the Russian Federation are beaten by their husbands or partners. Often it is explained away, ignored: ‘she provoked it’; 'if he beats you it means he loves you'; ‘it’s a private matter’. In February 2017, the Russian state went a step further and partly decriminalised domestic violence.
In partnership with a Moscow-based shelter for women experiencing domestic violence, Birches uses theatre – fictional characters, diary entries, verbatim testimony, live music and tableaux – as a safe way for participants to articulate their experiences and tell their stories to a wider audience.
The project takes its name from the birch, Russia's national tree. The tree is thought to symbolise growth and renewal – repopulating areas damaged by forest fires.