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Convicted Flower Interview

The Camden Fringe will premiere for the first time in English, Convicted Flower, inspired by the character of Roberta in the Puerto Rican play Flor de Presidio by Juan González-Bonilla. Devised by Frances Arroyo & Joan Villafañe. Convicted Flower tells the true story of Roberta, a mother, housewife and exemplary woman. She is currently convicted of murdering her husband with her bare hands after recurrent events of domestic abuse in her household. It is our turn to know the story from every angle and make a choice. In this version of the play, the audience takes the role of a member of the jury who will decide if she is guilty or innocent.

This story presents the unfortunate reality of many women worldwide experiencing gender-based violence. In 2021, an estimated 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in accordance with ActionAid. Through her performance, actress Joan Villafañe connects with the audience to create awareness among them, identifying violent patterns and providing a space for introspection. The show premieres on Friday, 25th of August 5:00 PM on the Etcetera Theatre stage and runs through Sunday, 27th of August 5:00 PM.

Ahead of the run in Camden I spoke with Joan Villafañe to discuss the show further.

Where did the journey for Convicted Flower begin?
Last year I performed a 15-minute monologue at Teatro en 15, a micro theatre initiative in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The character I portrayed was Roberta, and the monologue was derived from the Puerto Rican play Flor de Presidio by Juan González Bonilla. The show was a success and received the title of "Best Show of the Season," which is equivalent to a 5-star review in the UK. We also got a nomination for “Best Actress” and “Best Production” for the Puerto Rican Victoria Espinosa Theatre Awards. My colleague Edgardo Soto directed me in the Puerto Rico run, and after that, Frances Arroyo and I worked on developing Roberta's character further by rewriting the story from a new angle. In this new version of the play, the audience is part of Roberta's trial and gets to deliberate if she is guilty or innocent. It was a unique experience for everyone involved, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

What research did you have to do when developing the piece?
Well, for the run in Puerto Rico I did extensive research regarding women in jails and their behaviours. I was curious about the human side of it, why they ended up in jail in the first place, and how they develop in the process after being convicted. This was all to create a journey for Roberta. I watched tons of series of women in prison, the Australian series Wentworth was my main source of research. As well as the statistics in Puerto Rico of domestic violence and gender violence to say the least, is alarming. When one does this type of research and sees all the statistics around the world it is horrifying to see how Universal this problem is.
Also when devising this new play we had to do research about women victims of domestic violence as well as the law side of things.

The trial being the core of this play the language of law needed to be fully understood and comprehended to be able make justice to all the characters.

The show started its life in Puerto Rico and is now making its English language debut. How have you approached the English language adaption?
For the adaptation of this play we took it to the UK. We took Roberta as a Latina woman who married an Englishman, and moved to the UK. Her trial is in the Crown Court, she has an American defence barrister, and the prosecutor is from the UK.

It is an absolute challenge for me as I need to embody all of these characters and deeply study them. The version I played in Puerto Rico I only played Roberta, in this version is Roberta and everything that surrounds her environment.

The figures of the amount of cases of domestic abuse in the UK and globally are frankly frightening, how do you think Convicted Flower attempts to change an audience's thoughts on these numbers?
I think this play is about changing minds and potentially later changing the law to be more protective towards women. We hope to appeal directly to the critical analysis and encourage the audience to start asking questions about the law and domestic abuse. We are all about educating people through theatre, we want to raise awareness for the victims, and I think this play is a form of education by experiencing Roberta’s story on stage. The audience will have the tools to evaluate if they want to see and tolerate this behaviour.
We acknowledge that there is a lot of work to be done in this subject and we are keen to keep researching about it and educating about it.

The audience becomes the jury and ultimately decides the verdict at the end of the trial. Does that always keep it interesting for you as you never know which way they’ll go?
It will definitely keep it interesting, as we will never anticipate the final veredict, that is one of the most important things, as we want to make this experience an immersive one for the audience.

We will be able to learn a lot about society and where we are at the minute, in terms of this delicate subject.
Every night will be a different a different decision and as an actress I am prepared to face any veredict.

What do you want an audience member to take away from seeing the show?
We want the audience and everyone to understand that this is real. Domestic Violence is a real and horrifying problem that needs to be tackled.

A lot of women are going through this in silence and we would like to empower them to be brave, and tell their stories. We want to make them justice.

What keeps you inspired?
Developing new work that invites the audience to reflect and encourages them to ask questions by awakening their curiosity to learn

Can you describe Convicted Flower in 3 words?
Raw, dynamic and daring.

Convicted Flower plays from Friday 25th until Sunday 27th August as at Etcetera Theatre in Camden. Tickets are available from

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