When someone asks you for help you try to help – right?
So, when Lizi Patch asked me for help during the second stage of development of her production Punching The Sky, I offered my time and support.
Easy. Someone calls and you respond, positively and constructively.
But when Lizi called out for support on the most public and open platform in existence, The Internet, the response was deafeningly silent. She found no one and nothing to help her navigate the delicate, emotional and uncertain terrain of young children’s exposure to hard-core pornography.
When Lizi then dared to liberate her own voice about this, through her blog, then the silence was immediately broken and the floodgates opened with some genuine support and compassion but also a torrent of platitudes, abuse and a great deal of opinionated diatribe on the rights and wrongs of an uncensored, unmediated world wide web.
I was fascinated with this story. Not just because of the themes but also the way that human nature leads to so many of us grabbing hold of someone else’s identity and lashing it through the undergrowth. Working in the arts I’ve witnessed similar responses both personally and towards others, when the public decides that because you’ve dared to step into the limelight, you’ve made a pact with the devil and have to accept that it’s now open season – and at your expense!
Lizi’s very personal story highlighted for me how unsophisticated the debate is on
pornography in the public realm. It also struck me that by daring to go further and
creating a work of theatre from her troubling experience, she showed strength of
character and a rare determination to find meaning amidst the chaos of people’s free
and often hurtful appropriation – not of the issues – but of her! Of Lizi!
So when Lizi asked me to support the next stage of this journey, to co-produce and
direct the production, I felt it was the very least I could do to stay with her, to see it through, to help shine a fine light in a forest of confusion.
And more than this – I wanted to be part of the conversation. With Lizi. With the cast, the venues and especially with the audience – but this time in a calm and respectful way.
Punching the Sky is at Live Theatre, Newcastle at 7.30pm on Wednesday 9 March. It is suitable for ages 16+ and contains strong language with sexual references. For more information and tickets costing from £14-£10, over 60s concessions £12 and other concessions £6 see www.live.org.uk.