Really Want To Hurt Me is a coming- of- age story about a gay teenage boy in mid 80s Exeter, or, I should say, tries to be a coming-of- age story about a gay teenage boy in mid 80s Exeter. Written and directed by Ben SantaMaria and performed by Ryan Price, this one-man show falls short of the mark, pregnant pauses filling this lacklustre production to the brim. The best thing about the evening is the music used (think 80s classics by artists such as The Eurythmics and The Smiths), as Price’s character uses his love of music as a way of coping with the merciless bullying he receives at school just for being himself.
What could be considered heart-breaking about this narrative is the fact that Price’s character is still finding himself, making him endearingly naïve, especially in instances where he is challenged about his behaviour by everyone from his teachers, to his peers, to his parents, however not being able to work out why. That being said, it is difficult to get behind him fully as an audience member; the lingering nature of his delivery increasingly irritating, and even the opening lacks certain energy. Aiming to play an apologetic and awkward character, Price is demonstrating each thought before he speaks instead of playing the thought AS he speaks, which would aid him in delivering a more truthful performance. The result is that this would-be moving story of a suicidal young person is anything but emotional or affecting.
SantaMaria’s likening of society’s pressure to be straight to George Orwell’s 1984 ‘thought police’, is an intriguing way of describing the issue, as any demonstration of deviating from the ‘norm’ is punished through what we now recognise as hate crime. A piece of red material begins to be used half way through the production, suggesting different characters/actions, however this introduction of the prop is not clearly thought out, making the use of it clunky and sometimes vague.
Really Want To Hurt Me has an air of self-indulgence about it, with esoteric references and a monotonous storytelling method sucking any possibility of intrigue from the production. If the aim is to create nostalgia and a feeling of hope for the audience to come away with, because as a society we have come so far in regards to recognising the LGBT+ community (but still have a way to go), it is lost in the black box studio of Soho Theatre.
Really Want To Hurt Me played at Soho Theatre until 13 December 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.