Really Want To Hurt Me is a beautifully understated and sensitively performed one-hander – charting the oppression, resulting self-hatred and eventual reinstatement of identity of one teenager growing up in 1980’s Exeter.
Playwright Ben SantaMaria’s decision to leave Really Want To Hurt Me‘s protagonist nameless validates any suspicion that this tumultuous coming-of-age story – tinged with institutionalised (and subsequently internalised) homophobia, commonplace violence and Culture Club-infused escapism – is supposed to represent many’s.
Charting the lows – and eventual highs – of discovering that you’re ‘different from the norm’ in the mid-80’s, this understated one-hander’s soundtrack and multitude of popular references will undoubtedly ensure queer-identifying Gen X audience members enjoy a vivid nostalgia trip. But the piece is impressive in its capacity to be both abundant in cultural specificity, and yet universally relevant.
To all intents and purposes, actor Ryan Price sensitively portrays a character, a struggle, a set of coping mechanisms and a lived experience that LGBT audience members of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds & generations will relate to – and that allies will certainly be able to draw their own meaning from too. Last year of course, Stonewall’s school report substantiated the fears of many: that nearly half of all LGBT pupils still suffer from physical bullying, homophobic insults and low self-worth (if not self-harm and attempted suicide attempts). So whilst we may need to swap the Eurythmics out for Ariana, this protagonist is as much a mouthpiece for this new generation as any.
SantaMaria’s text is rich in humour, but richer still in (often uninhibited) truth. Even without the press release’s insight that the playwright also grew up in Exeter in the 80s, the writing paints too vivid & visceral an impression of its character’s experience for you to not assume it’s at least semi-autobiographical. Quiet references to the ‘new’ virus becoming associated with the community, mere hints of violence which you expect to be far more serious than the character is even able to admit to himself and a particularly sensitively handled scene on a bridge (not something which I’ve witnessed many playwrights handle well) contribute to an appropriately complex and troublesome landscape that our central character must navigate.
Really Want To Hurt Me may not touch on anything radical in its account of one (white and cis) man’s search for an identity he feels comfortable with, but it nevertheless presents a narrative with nuance, kind-heartedness and a captivatingly calm central performance. Paradoxically, you hope it’ll eventually be performed in a context where it won’t remotely relate to younger LGBT audiences. But for now, those (still) enduring the homophobia and violence prevalent in many school and domestic environments – plus anyone with a connection to someone who is or has – are likely to find the piece as touching, and quietly important, as it almost certainly is.