Binge Fringe Magazine

INTERVIEW: A Digital Pint with… Declan Bennett, Tackling Toxic Masculinity, Mental Health, & Homophobia in ‘Boy Out The City’ at EdFringe 2023

Taking an autobiographical look at a time in isolation, away from the city lights, Declan Bennett’s new show Boy Out The City lands at EdFringe next month to take on his experiences with toxic masculinity, Men’s mental health, and homophobia. We wanted to know what it’s like to sit down and face such a personal, intimate set of themes in a whirlwind hour of New Writing theatre. We caught up with Declan for a pixelated pint to get behind the curtain, and, out the city.

Catch Boy Out The City at Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly) from August 3-27 (not the 14th or 21st) at 15:30. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.

Jake: Hi Declan! Your autobiographical show Boy Out The City takes on toxic masculinity, homophobia, and men’s mental health – tell us what spurred you to bring this story to the Edinburgh Fringe stage.

Declan: Hi Jake! I think Boy Out The City has been a long time in the making without me actually realising it. The show was born out of a very specific situation I found myself in towards the end of 2020 when me and my boyfriend left London for the idyllic English countryside. Little did I know he’d leave a few weeks after for 6 months as we dived back into a lockdown and I was completely alone and unable to see or visit anyone. I documented the whole time and as I turned 40 in March 2021 I looked back at all my journals and knew there was a play in there. All these thoughts and feelings both from my present but so many from my past kept appearing on the pages and my director and co creator Nancy Sullivan helped me pull hours of material apart and Boy Out The City came to life. The Edinburgh Fringe seemed like the perfect place to share this sort of piece. I can’t wait to get up there!

Jake: The show charts your journey, from the euphoria of watching Sister Act 2 for the first time, through Catholic School in Coventry, and the 90s Gay Scene in Soho and New York City. Tell us about the process of taking your life journey and mapping it onto the stage, and how you brought it all to life.

Declan: It was so important to me looking back on all my writing that although its an autobiographical piece, the play had to feel universal. It had to be a journey that the audience felt compelled to come on with me and explore their own inner life and wether it was serving them well or not. I knew I didn’t want to sing or play guitar, I just wanted to stand and tell the story but I also wanted the text to have rhythm and style so there’s a real poeticism to the words and the presentation. Once me and Nancy had mapped out the story it was really easy and fun to put on its feet, bringing all the characters in the story to life and having a killer soundtrack underneath that represents different decades of my life. Anyone in their 30’s and 40’s will experience some serious nostalgia!

Jake: What do you hope the audience walks away thinking or talking about? The piece covers so much of your life and I’d love to know if there’s a common thread, or message, you’re hoping people take away with them.

Declan: The play is ultimately about our inner child. The ‘Boy’ in the play is 7 year old me, 14 year old me, 23 year old me, but the ‘Boy’ is everyones inner kid who’s been repressed and shut down over the years and I want everyone to surrender to that kid inside them and let them speak. I think we all have one inside of us. I hope people leave thinking about their own inner kid and wether they need to let them surface for a bit and have a conversation with them. The play is all about reconciliation and redemption. Surrendering to the stories you tell yourself and finally letting them go.

Jake: Tell us about your relationship with Edinburgh and the Fringe – have you been before and how are you feeling about it all now we are a month away?

Declan: Ha! I performed at the Edinburgh Fringe when I was 16. (26 years ago!) I was up there with NYMT in The Kissing Dance and I have such amazing memories from that time. But I also had a chaperone so all bets are off this time…haha. Im so excited to get up there and immerse myself in it all, go see loads of new stuff and connect with all the other incredible brave artists who are up there and getting stuck in and sharing their work.

Jake: Given the themes of Binge Fringe, if your show was a beverage of any kind (alcoholic, non-alcoholic – be as creative as you like!), what would it be and why?

Declan: It would be a bottle of Malibu with a Chardonnay chaser and a rim of tea leaves. And you’ll have to come and see the show to see what I mean….

Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2024), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023-24), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them