Monthly Archives: April 2014

Punching The Sky: Who Cares Anymore?

The issue with a piece of theatre based on a true story that happened a year ago, about a subject that divides the nation, is that it happened a year ago. And it divides the nation.

By it’s very nature people care so very much at the time and then life inches in and, inevitably, they care less. There’s no point getting stuck in a groove, endlessly playing and replaying the same story, because the feelings we felt so keenly quickly become mere memories of the emotions we felt at the time. Which is a good thing, as that’s exactly what helps us cope with the world on a day to day basis. It’s what ensured my 11 year old son got on with his life, so, a good thing.

However it’s NOT a good thing when you’re developing a piece of theatre about it. Because as you, the audience, are sitting there trying to care, waiting to see if what I present makes you care, a voice inside your head might be saying ‘does it still matter?’

Does it still matter?

Since the initial bog, many, many questions and discussions have been raised about how young people (as young as 8, I’ve done my research and spoken to real, live young people about this) are accessing and consuming disturbing porn, how they are getting their sex education from the internet, how this is affecting real relationships for a generation growing up unsure of the boundaries because they’re seeing films and images before they’re discussing what’s real and what’s not, they’re beginning physical relationships with each other without having the confidence or the vocabulary to articulate what feels good and what feels wrong to them. Boys are under pressure to perform, girls are under pressure to perform, both tell me they want to be allowed to make mistakes, both tell me they want to be able to talk to each other, lots of teenagers tell me they have had no context for the stuff they’ve watched and just want to be able to talk openly about it with people who won’t judge them. They can make their own mistakes from there on in, thanks.

It does still matter. I just need to find a way to write it so it opens doors on the subject rather than invites spectators to judge the material… But that’s what you do when you make theatre for the public I suppose.

The Arts Council gave me a grant. Lots of people have supported and added to the journey. We’re about to present an extract at an Industry Showcase at the Lowry on Wednesday 30th April, and all I want to do is sit down and have a proper talk with the audience about the debt we owe to this generation growing up so fucking confused about this most basic of human needs.

But that would be boring and I’d probably get called *Mary Whitehouse again and I’m supposed to be making theatre.

*Sex and porn are not the same thing. Even Mary knew that.

Punching The Sky – following the R&D

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An ACE funded Research and Development period for a new touring theatre show, telling the true story of how a deeply personal conversation about online pornography between a young boy and his mum went global. 

The six week R&D went well – all things considered. Live Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and The Lowry (where we will be returning on the 30th April, more about that in a mo) were all thoroughly on board and gave us the best start possible. Gez Casey from Live had this to say after the first sharing to an invited audience at his lovely venue:

“Punching The Sky is an engaging, funny and thought-provoking piece of theatre. It examines some prickly and morally complex issues in a sensitive and entertaining way. It also asks some grown up questions about how quickly our young people grow up.”

Gez Casey, Literary Manager, Live Theatre

And as a result we have been invited back in June to scratch the itch a little more.

I can’t lie, it doesn’t get easier – although the final (to date) public sharing at Theatre in The Mill, Bradford went down as well as I could have possibly expected:

“So then, Punching The Sky by that @lizipatch is powerful, punchy and unpretentious. The kind of WiP that leaves you desperate to see t’show”. Iain Bloomfield, Artistic Director TiM.

…and that’s despite the fact that our stunning roundabout (designed and made by Scott Thompson) STILL didn’t see the light of day. Although we got it as far as the front door of the venue. That’s been the closest. More on that another time perhaps. But anyway, here it is… Lovely innit?

THE SET YET TO BE SEEN

The Roundabout. Punching The Sky

The audience feedback genuinely surprised and moved me – for different reasons. Words I had floating about in my mind when I set out to make this piece of theatre rose to the surface on good old twitter soon after the audience left. This is some of what they had to say:

SOME LOVELY TWEETS

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Tender, honest, punchy, unpretentious. I can live with that.

There were other words too, via email etc  – mixed, yet all chime with thoughts I’ve had, one way or another.

Here’s some snippets:

SOME OTHER THOUGHTS

“I think that the audience get side-tracked when you are on stage as you. That whole trendy thing of ‘non-acting’ is done very well by people who do it very well – but they are doing it for a very specific reason. It is not a trend that suits every piece of work nor does it make a piece of work ‘contemporary’. So you doing the ‘non-acting’ thing is just getting in the way of a very powerful piece of theatre.”

“I think you are a bloody lovely performer and writer. It was great to see you on stage. And to hear your words.”

“If I was writing this piece of theatre I wouldn’t write it like that”.

“We don’t need all the stuff about your son growing up”

“…I think you should feel bloody made up with yourself and your team because I thought the whole presentation / sharing was absolutely engaging from start to finish. You held me and so much doesn’t.”

“My heart was waiting to leap but never quite did”.”I loved getting to know your son through the show, it was vital to help me care enough…”

IN SUMMARY – FOR NOW

Clearly when you open your heart and invite people to comment on the contents, you’re always going to get a variety of heartfelt contradicitions. If you don’t then you are probably failing as that writer/performer  attempting to touch on something that both unites and divides us in the way the subject of extreme pornography does.

It’s been a journey so far and it would have been pretty rubbish at times without the help of my co-actors Rob Ward and Dan McCann who have jumped neck deep into this process and shone lights on it from all directions. They take no prisoners and I thank them for that. Animators Mike and James from Arcus Studios are continuing to develop astonishing and spot on animations and taking it all to the next level and Musician/Composers Rich Huxley and James Hamilton have made a 8-bit version of Duel Of Fates and Yellow by Coldplay – so that says all we need to say about that. Legends. And ongoing thanks are due to Producers, Little Mighty. Ongoing thanks to you 🙂

NEXT?

We’re at The Lowry for the Industry Showcase on the 30th April, showing an extract of PTS to a plethora of reps from some of the best venues in the UK. After that? Scratch night at Live in June and then…  I’m genuinely not sure at this point. I’m sitting on a bit of a crossroads with this one. I’m both hugely grateful for the support and passion that has helped me drive this piece so far, and also hugely tired from hauling something this precious and important around for this long… It might be finished in a way, it might metamorphose into something else, it might go to bed and hibernate – bear-like – for a time. Or I might write another draft, get some funding and tour it. Whatever I do I’ll probably mention it again.