Today we’re joined for a Digital Pint by the creative team behind HIDE and SEEK heading to VAULT Festival later this month. The show takes a look at homophobia, self-discovery and acceptance in an Italian town through the lens of two teenage boys in Italian suburbia. Wanting to know more about what inspired the story, and how the piece tackles contentions around being yourself in modern Italy, we sat down with the creators for a pixleated pint to uncover the behind the scenes of this exciting new piece of queer work.
HIDE and SEEK lands at VAULT Festival between February 21st and 23rd. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.
Hi guys, your piece takes place in an Italian town, following the story of two teenage boys fighting against each other against a backdrop of prejudice and hatred. Could you tell us about what inspired the piece and what you’re hoping to highlight?
“Italy is a culturally Catholic country that is full of contradictions: in some ways it’s free and accepting, in others it’s still profoundly prejudiced. Homophobic violence is still so prevalent in Italy that it felt natural, important, even necessary to tell a story like this. It would almost be strange not to.”
“HIDE and SEEK is a dark fairy-tale, a love story, and above all a drama about the impossibility of being ourselves in a world that is still very much shaped by prejudice and small-mindedness. The suburban setting of the play is the ideal backdrop to explore antiquated points of view as well as the impulses toward freedom and self determination that clash with them.”
The show’s listing posits that “being yourself is still a risky proposition in our society”, could you tell us a little about what you mean and how the piece approaches society’s prejudices?
“What you mention is, in a way, the more political side of the play. ‘The powers that be,’ in a multitude of insidious and intangible ways, seek to separate people from their true natures in order to steer them toward acceptable, pre-approved concepts of what is right, good, and beautiful.”
“This is a one-size-fits all approach that filters from the top down through all layers of our society, and that is deployed to deliberately exercise social control. In this context, an individual’s attempt to be authentically themselves, to pursue their genuine ideals of love, sex, relationships and beauty, can be the most subversive choice of all. Even in 2023. This is what our brave protagonist Gio tries to do, but it comes at a cost.”
The piece specifically focuses on the impact of societally in-built prejudice on young people – what have you discovered in creating the piece about that effect?
“The play was produced in Italy for an audience of teenagers, students, teachers and the general public. One thing that became apparent through this process was how we tend to think of “bullying” as an issue that only affects teenagers, young people, our children. We examine the violence from a safe distance, labelling it as just one of the ways in which young people relate to each other.”
”In doing so, we fail to realise that as adults, we are the ones who first absorbed and later passed on to the next generation this exact vocabulary of aggression and of casual, daily oppression. The most extreme cases we read about in the news – suicides, disappearances, assaults – are just the tip of the iceberg of this pervasive cultural issue.”
Tell us a little bit about the process of creating the show and what you have been up to ahead of the show landing at VAULT Festival.
“The journey of the play began in Italy, then continued in New York. It’s been a fascinating process because with every step the piece has evolved andbecome richer. In Italy, we workshopped and produced HIDE and SEEK with, and for teenagers, performing it in schools for young audiences who participated in lively Q&As after the performances. Hearing from these groups of teenagers about their own experiences, and about what aspects ofthe play and of the characters they identified with, helped to develop theplay further.”
“It was illuminating to hear their strong reactions not only to the two characters we see on stage but also to the ones we only hear about like Kevin, Daniel, and even Gio’s unwanted ‘friend’ Debbie. In New York, the play was translated and directed by Carlotta Brentan and presented at the Tank Theater, and that process of translation continued to enrich new facets of the story.”
“The version of that we are presenting at VAULT Festival has been enriched by all of these previous incarnations. And now we get to seewhat comes next.”
Now that we’re gearing up for VAULT Festival 2023, what are you most excited for?
“What I’m looking forward to the most is meeting a varied and open-minded theatrical community that will hopefully engage with the play, help to transform it further and perhaps generate sparks of inspiration for future works. After all, what is a play if not a small contribution to a vast collective conversation about humanity?”
Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, mocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?
“When I was growing up, a popular drink that was served to children in my part of Italy was a ‘low alcohol’ concoction made of orange juice and a splash of red wine. For whatever reason, that’s what comes to mind when I think of this play. A flavour that evokes the transition between childhood and adulthood, with all of its ups and downs.”