Ria Hartley


Growing up in the 90′s in a domestic violent mixed raced family household on an east Midlands council estate wasn’t what I would have chosen for a childhood. After repeatedly hitchhiking to safety with my kid Brothers, calling the police daily, and surviving my childhood, I consider the different kinds of love necessary for an often callous family dynamic.

Untouchable is a piece about endurance, resilience and survival. It’s about finding the courage to speak out. It’s about the hidden realities of everyday life that happen behind closed doors. It’s about the impact that domestic violence has on real people, a family, lives that matter.

Whilst tender and courageous, this piece has guts and grit. It speaks of an often unspoken reality and looks hopefully at recovery. It examines our health services, our government, our value systems and fundamentally questions where our society is failing its children.



I predominately work with autobiography as a way of exploring aspects of the human experience and how my own experiences translate and transform when shared with an audience.

As a child I experienced traumas which I have carried into my adult life. Many children grow up with domestic violence and so it feels important to speak up and out about these experiences. Naming these experiences ensures they are not lost to the silence which often surrounds them.

Untouchable has been created with the co-collaboration of my family members, who are non-performers. We have undergone 12 weeks of family therapy to ensure our safeguarding while exploring past traumas, to extract new meaning and understanding of our current situations.


Untouchable is a sited live performance work which takes place for a limited capacity audience of up to 20 people in a ‘therapy’ setting. The sited context for the performance is integral to the audience’s experience of the work and creates a ‘safe space’ for the content which is explored. I invite the audience into aspects of the process in which my family has undertaken to support creating this work while exploring their own experiences of the abuse


Domestic abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime. It has more repeat victims than any other crime accounting for 16% of all violent crime. Research shows that trauma experienced by children has a direct impact on their emotional, mental and physical health in adult life, making them more likely to contract mental health issues and chronic diseases.

Domestic violence remains a taboo. Victims’ voices are both marginalised and largely unheard. Within my family’s story are mirrors of many others; and I hope that this work will offer a way to understand violence and its repercussions. If society is to adequately respond to the challenge of prevention, education and supporting people to live healthier lives free from abuse, greater understanding is needed.


The content of the work may trigger emotions for an audience, particularly audience members who are survivors of DV. In the introduction to the work the audience are aware that they may leave the space if they feel they need to at any point during the piece. The space will need to have an usher or duty manager outside the main

door and a ‘quiet space’ should be available for audience to sit in. The usher or duty manager will have a brief for best practice in the case that the audience becomes distressed.

Information on DV services, pamphlets and a list of local and national services will need to be available in the ‘quiet space’ to act as signposting for audience members who might seek external professional support after the piece. The artist and venue can not be responsible for audience after the show has ended. Therefore measures for creating a ‘safe’ environment in the work and signposting is essential in ethical care and responsibility of our audience.



Like a deep sea diver, Ria Hartley dares to descend deep down to places dangerousand forbidden in order to surface with a pearl. Breathtaking


Stacy Makishi, Live Artist / Director


Ria Hartley’s Untouchable is stunning in the it is a work that is both impressively and intelligently crafted, and also one which stuns an audience into silence, then into reaction, then into anger, then into sadness, then into empathy, and beyond. Few in the UK, or internationally, are making such difficult and searching work


Brian Lobel, Artist / Senior Lecturer


Ria is able to hold your hand as you go down a rabbit hole that is a state of unloved untouchability, whilst reassuring you that everything has a silver lining. The image of a phoenix comes to mind


Zena Edwards, Artist


In Untouchable, Ria Hartley explores very stark and personal subject matter with unflinching honesty. Neither brittle nor hectoring, Untouchable is often surprisingly beautiful


Greg Klerkx, Director, Nimble Fish


Untouchable is a hugely important piece of performance, It’s the first time I’ve seen the topic of domestic violence presented on the stage. This new work is truly personal and political, a vital performance which must be experienced.


Anna Smith, Producer, Unfinished Business


26 February Scratch at Richmix, London

11 March Work-in-progress showing at SICK! Lab, Manchester

10 – 11 May Premiere at Contact, Manchester

19 May Live Art Bistro, Leeds

25 – 26 May The Albany, London


Untouchable is A Contact Flying Solo Commission. This show is part of A Nation’s Theatre Festival – a celebration of UK creativity. Theatre-makers from outside London will be presenting and developing shows across the capital in April–May 2016. Supported by Apples & Snakes and Arts Council England & the National Lottery funding.

Created and performed by Ria Hartley
Producer Emma Møller

Mentored by Zena Edwards, James Leadbitter, Stacy Makishi

Next Post

Previous Post

© 2018 Ria Hartley