ANGIE Le Mar was hosting her Saturday morning radio show when a call came in that changed her life. The young woman on the phone had a heartbreaking and shocking story to tell and wanted Angie’s advice.
She had been having sex with her boyfriend when four of his friends entered the bedroom and took it in turns to also have sex with her. What the teenager wanted to know was: had she been raped?
When Angie replied “yes” and said she had to tell her mother, the girl claimed she couldn’t as her mum already thought she was “a tramp”.
This was the trigger for Angie to write a play about the problems facing young women, from sexual abuse and violence in relationships, to bad role models in the media such as Amy Winehouse and Jordan.
Do You Know Where Your Daughter Is? also focuses on mothers who have no idea what is going on in their children’s lives.
The play opens at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe today, the rst time it will be seen outside London.
Although the characters in the drama are based in that city, Angie knows the themes it covers are universal.
This frightening insight into the secret lives of teenagers has been in demand in London theatres and from schools and youth groups since Angie wrote it four years ago. Requests have also come in from as far a eld as South Africa and the USA.
Angie, who is married with two sons and an 11-year-old daughter, said: “the girl who called thought her own mother would think she had provoked the rape. She couldn’t understand why her boyfriend let that happen to her because she trusted him. It’s become so normalised that a lot of these girls don’t even know they’re being abused.
“We didn’t realise how universal the issues were until we got calls from schools and groups in America, Africa, Argentina and the Caribbean as well. People want to talk about it and it is starting a debate that we really need to have.”
In many cases, the experiences of the caller and other girls like her who inspired the show are so alien to even slightly older generations, that it’s hard for mothers to believe, never mind understand.
This gap between generations was one of the things Angie wanted her play to address.
The themes come from conversations she’s had with young people, from the workshops she holds and the stories of everyday life that she’s heard.
She also wants more attention paid to the girls who are often unwilling partners on the fringes of crime. When politicians or the police talk about the problems with society’s youth, they often overlook young women.
Angie said: “People talk about the boys all the time, gun crime and knife crime.
“But these boys they’re talking about are having sex with our daughters. ey’re not separate from society. ere’s somebody holding a knife for them, somebody hiding the gun and that might be your daughter.
“We’re not trying to scare people but do you know where she is, really? Do you know what’s going on, the peer pressure forcing them to do things that they don’t want to? “For example, in London, there’s been a huge increase in gang rapes, as initiation into gangs. e girls have to have sex with all the gang members before they join the gang. It’s shocking but, for some young women, it’s becoming normalised.
“I listened to a lot of kids to get the language right and the feel of it real.”
Writing the play was a real change of direction for Angie, whose background is in comedy. She has performed at the Fringe before – in a 1993 sketch show and as a stand-up comic in 1997. Her eight-year stint as a DJ for Choice FM ended two years ago as the success of the play spread.
She said: ” e play has just grown. I wrote it in two or three days. I just wanted to get it out of my system. For the last four years, every time we put it on, more people request it.
“We have a few versions of the play and the one we’re bringing to Edinburgh is the darker version. But when we go into schools, we tone it down and tame it a bit. My daughter Tru has seen it and I didn’t worry about that because our children are exposed to a lot more than we often realise. I’m not saying that’s right but this is the world they live in.
“The play deals with really low self-esteem and peer pressure on girls from each other and from boys sexually. It also looks at the relationship between the mother and daughter where the mother is trying to keep the daughter on the straight and narrow, yet she can see she’s slipping away and the temptation that happens around her.
“Young women are very vulnerable now. I do lots of workshops with young girls and when you hear some of the stories, there’s an under-culture which is coming up with rules that we can’t even imagine.
“And it’s become so normal. I’ve talked to girls who have seen the show and they are familiar with the issues raised in it. ey’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, my boyfriend hits me.’ at’s just what it is now, if you ‘step out of line’.
“Or you’ve got the Rihanna and Chris Brown situation where some of the girls will ask, ‘Well, what did she do?’ as opposed to, ‘Chris Brown was out of order.’ They’re not looking at it from the right angle.
“The role models for young women are not great. Look at Amy Winehouse and Kerry Katona. ey’re successful women, and they’re being shown to us as women with drug problems.
“But if Kerry loses weight and brings a video out, then she’s pretty much OK.
“Jordan gets more surgery and the message is, ‘Women don’t get wrinkles’ or ‘You won’t be able to keep a man.'”
For the Edinburgh run of the show, Angie will be playing the character of the mother for the first time. Although she’s nervous about the role, as the creator, she knows it better than anyone.
She said: ” e reaction from doing the play has been amazing. We’ve had mothers come back to us, saying they’ve talked with their daughters for hours afterwards about the issues.
“I get young girls writing to me after they’ve seen it, telling me how they don’t want to be like that any more and asking what do they do.