DramaReviewSouth West

Really Want to Hurt Me – The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

Writer & Director: Ben SantaMaria

Performer: Ryan Price

Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts

Written and directed by Ben SantaMaria, this is the premiere of the full-length version of Really Want to Hurt Me, with an earlier scratch version longlisted for the national Heretic Voices monologue prize at the Arcola Theatre.

Performed by Ryan Price, the show follows a young man as he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality. Set in Exeter in 1984 and with a distant backdrop of the AIDS crisis, Really Want to Hurt Me explores what it’s like growing up in a world where you don’t see yourself represented. Price gives an understated and at times, enchanting, performance, which can all too often be lost in this type of straight-to-audience monologue.

The city of Exeter features heavily throughout the show, with the production acting as a kind of time capsule for the shops, streets and people of this South Devon city. With music, fashion and, of course, 1984, it is full of everything you’d expect from a teenager of the time. Spanning his high school years, being told to act more ‘masculine’ by his teachers and parents, his first sexual encounter, and all the awkward and painful bits in between. The show traces all the parts of the teenager’s life. It is a far from a happy story, but not one without hope. 

It features simple staging, with only a stool and a cardboard box adorning the stage when the lights go up. These are used sparingly throughout, but for the most part, it is just Price alone on the stage. Telling the story with only small, precise movements for visuals. Classic eighties musical interludes from Culture Club, Tears for Fears and Eurythmics are juxtaposed by poignant solo dance moments. These tiny moments, bursts of feeling when the character escapes his own inner monologue, are highly visual and striking.

However, the visual moments also highlight the lack of anything visually compelling from the rest of the performance. More could be explored in terms of choreography, as engrossing as the monologue is, there is an element of tedium watching someone walk around a room over and over again.

Beautiful and at times painful, the writing gives an honest insight into a moment in time and the life of a young man dealing with something which he struggles to understand. Funny and uneasy in equal measure, this quietly beautiful show is one not to be missed.

Runs until 26 January 2018 | Image: Contributed

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