Sunday, 22 July 2018

Want to Dramaturgy Me: Ben SantaMaria @ Edfringe 2018

"Really Want to Hurt Me" 

A funny, bittersweet and painfully honest new one-person play about growing up as a gay teenager in rural Britain in the 1980s, featuring a soundtrack of that decade’s greatest music 

Really Want to Hurt Me

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Assembly Hall, Baillie Room (Venue 35)
2–27 August 2018

A funny, bittersweet and painfully honest new one-person play about growing up as a gay teenager in rural Britain in the 1980s, featuring a soundtrack of that decade’s greatest music by Culture Club, Eurythmics, Tears for Fears,
The Smiths, Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins and more.


Devon, 1984. Under constant pressure to be straight and act “masculine”, a 14-year-old lad feels his life is more like George Orwell’s “1984”. School bullies… Teenage heartache… Suicidal self-hatred… An accidental first orgasm… Trying to tape the weekly Top 40 from the radio without the DJ talking over the songs… Dancing defiantly to your Walkman…

With seven ★★★★ London reviews, this acclaimed play is a celebration of surviving all that life throws at you and escaping into the joys of pop music like your life depends on it. Because in a way it actually does. It may be set a long time ago, but are things really that different now? “Do you really want to hurt me?”
Written and directed by Ben SantaMaria. 

Performed by Ryan Price.

What areas of mental health are you looking at in the performance?

Really Want to Hurt Me is the most autobiographical play I’ve written, so I’ve tried to balance the intensely personal memories with what’s happening on the bigger social canvas. It explores a schoolboy’s growing isolation and suicidal self-loathing in Devon from 1984-86, and his coping strategies to survive that trauma and build a liveable identity. The regimented policing of gender and sexuality in that time and place, with violent bullying at the sharp end of it all, makes him retreat into the comfortable and transgressive fantasy world of pop music. The mental and emotional gymnastics he has to perform to make sense of himself in this daily life of compulsory heterosexuality and rigid ‘masculinity’ means he feels he has nowhere to turn but in on himself for failing to stick to the social script. The lack of role models, or even basic acknowledgement that queerness and gender diversity might belong in this world, gives him a stunted adolescence – an arrested development – that so many LGBTQ people still find themselves damaged by, at that age and throughout later life. We watch those with heterosexual privilege, and those who successfully pass as such, live out the lusts and loves and group bonds thate everyone needs to grow up with a grounded quality of mental health. Ironically, LGBTQ kids and teens are often punished and marginalised for an identity they don’t have the support or life experience to actually discover yet. The play uses comedy and intimate confessions to take audiences deep inside the boy’s secret struggles with all this, and to ask how much of this repression has actually changed significantly for young LGBTQ people since the ‘80s. Stonewall’s School Report study last year found that almost half of all LGBTQ pupils still face bullying, half regularly hear homophobic insults and many suffer low self-worth, self-harm and attempt suicide.

In what ways do you hope that your play can help the audience to move forward in their understanding and actions towards a greater sense of mental good health?

I’ve developed it to hopefully speak directly to anyone who sits down to watch it at Assembly Hall. It’s important to me that it feels genuine and recognisable for LGBTQ audiences, but also intimate and vulnerable for everyone, because it’s about going right to the heart of the character’s most shameful feelings of worthlessness and guilt, to then be able to push past that self-punishing internalisation of the rejection outside him and fight back. This is maybe where it connects with all of our different struggles to find balance and belonging. The play doesn’t reach for easy answers to the boy’s situation, or shy away from the lowest points where mental health and happiness feels alien and he’s convinced he has no future. But because we get to see all of this, the stumbling steps he gradually takes to connect with the world, instead of only retreating to listen to his headphones, possibly ring truer to audiences as brave risks than some more generic self-help advice would. That need to take real action beyond being soothed by a Walkman definitely still applies to most of us with our phone and screen binges!

And given the high pressure nature of the Fringe, do you have any ideas about positive self-care during August in Edinburgh?

Speaking of binges…! The Fringe is a great big glorious jump into all the fantasy worlds we’re bringing to life around the city. It’s a unique place to get lost in just about everything you could imagine. A refrain I keep hearing, though, is what a lonely experience it can be for most people at some point. So maybe we can all take a tip from that scared ‘80s schoolboy and dare to reach out to connect with others that bit more often, instead of getting trapped in thinking we don’t belong. I also personally swear by Transcendental Meditation - something worth considering as a more powerful form of stress release than the surface-level, thought-control “mindfulness” approaches to meditation that get more publicity. And a good old dose of keeping it all in perspective can’t hurt. Balancing Fringe time with getting to know the city beyond it. Remembering why you’ve chosen to share this particular story on stage this year, regardless of how much attention it gets. Or thinking about what it is you’re looking to get from the particular shows you choose to go see, instead of numbing out and just ticking them off. That all-important, elusive balance!

Ben SantaMaria, writer and director of Flaming Theatre’s Really Want to Hurt Me (performed by Ryan Price). 2nd-27th August, 3pm (not 13th or 20th) in the Baillie Room at Assembly Hall (Venue 35). Tickets and show trailer:

Sold-out London previews at the Old Red Lion and at Theatre503. Pick of the Festival at the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter. Developed with support from Arts Council England and Soho Theatre Young Company.

Stonewall’s 2017 School Report study found that almost half of all LGBT pupils face bullying, half regularly hear homophobic insults and many suffer low self-worth, self-harm and attempt suicide. With a growing public awareness of mental health issues for increasing numbers of young men, Really Want To Hurt Me has strong relevance in 2018.

Ben SantaMaria’s earlier play lulla reached the Top 100 list from 1060 entries for Soho Theatre’s 2017
Verity Bargate Award. He took part in the National Theatre Studio Directors' Course, assistant directed at Shakespeare's Globe and co-directed After Orlando for Chaskis Theatre Company at Theatre Royal Stratford East and The Vaults, Waterloo. His other plays have been staged at Theatre503, Southwark Playhouse and ARC Stockton.

Flaming Theatre’s previous work includes Jarman Garden about filmmaker/artist Derek Jarman at Riverside Studios. A finalist for the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award. Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) called it “a beautifully choreographed tour through Derek’s life and world”. The Times said it was “a rollercoaster ride of sensations…a sublime interdisciplinary sensual assault”. One of Mark Shenton’s 5 Best Shows in London.
London reviews for Really Want To Hurt Me

Wow, this is powerful stuff. A cracking script and a superb actor. Hilarious. Wonderful.

Enchanting, funny and uneasy in equal measure. Beautiful. Not to be missed. ★★★★ Reviews Hub

It certainly has something special. Natural charisma and vulnerability. Wonderful moments of  exploding angst.” ★★★★ Stage Talk

Funny, touching and beautifully showcases the talents of the charming Ryan Price.
West End & Broadway director Sean Mathias

Web:  Twitter: @FlamingTheatre  Facebook: FlamingTheatre

Venue:  Assembly Hall, Baillie Room, Mound Place, EH1 2LU
Time: 15.00   Running Time: 60 mins  Suitable for ages 14+.
Dates2–27 August. Previews 2-3 August. No show Mon 13 & Mon 20 August.

Tickets: Previews £7; 6-7, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 August £11 (£10); 4-5, 8-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27 August £10 (£9)

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