Guest Blog: Ben Santa Maria on Really Want to Hurt Me

Really Want to Hurt Me is at The Barnfield Theatre on 3 August at 2pm. Book tickets here.

The more things change, the more they stay the same?

This question’s been on my mind about LGBTQ quality of life in the UK for many years. One massive step forward – we can be ourselves out in the world like never before. But what about the news reports of attacks being on the rise again? Two steps back?

With Really Want to Hurt Me, the play I’ve written/directed and am bringing to the Exeter Fringe Festival, I asked this big question about social progress for LGBTQ people by getting more personal than I’d ever expected to as a writer. The play’s a dark comedy – with dance sequences – about growing up gay in ‘80s Devon, based on my own experiences when I first lived in Topsham. It’s been through loads of late-night drafts to make it as honest and from the heart as possible. I spent time with Ryan Price, who performs the show, rehearsing in the freezing Boat Shed on Exeter Quay in the middle of winter to create something that hopefully takes audiences right back to that time and place – ‘80s Exeter – while also talking directly to LGBTQ people, and their allies, about their lives today. It’s way of looking at how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. With a killer soundtrack of Culture Club, Tears for Fears, Eurythmics, The Smiths, Kate Bush… I could go on!

Hopefully, Really Want to Hurt Me speaks to anyone who’s been that bullied person at school who turned to pop music and theatre to find a safer place. To escape the threats of violence from others, and from self-harm, but also to find themself. It’s a story about our early years, before the fierce, fabulous stuff (maybe, eventually) happens. A story about where we started out – the awkward parts we often try to forget and disown. I can’t believe how far the scared, brave schoolboy in our play’s travelled since last year. We’ve been to Exeter’s Bike Shed Theatre, London’s Soho Theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe. Now we can’t wait to bring him back home again to the Barnfield Theatre on 3rd August at 2pm. We’re also running a fun, free LGBTQ writing workshop right after the show at 5pm at the Exeter Phoenix for anyone aged 14+. No writing experience needed at all – just book a place and turn up! Maybe it’s your turn to tell your story now?