Zava Productions’ Hide and Seek takes a look at homophobic violence in small-town Italy at the VAULT Festival
“Why did you run away?”
A play can’t choose the audience it gets but there’s something deeply depressingly about people laughing out loud at two men kissing in a drama about homophobic violence. Hell is other (straight) people…right? Which ultimately is kinda the point of Tobia Rossi’s Hide and Seek. High-schooler and TikTokker Gio (Issam Al Ghussain) has run away from his home in a small conservative Italian town and has holed up in the cave in the woods. Schoolmate Mirko (Nico Cetrulo) tracks him down though and sequestered from the world (and its sniggering audience), a putative relationship blossoms.
But life outside the cave goes on noisily and as Mirko comes and goes, he brings with him news of that outside world and we see how this relationship is twisted from the start. Gio relishes the drama his disappearance has created, craving reports of the hitcounts on his videos, and Mirko clocks that he has found the ideal vehicle to work through his insecurities. Thus there’s a considered look at some of the factors shaping young masculinity, the corrosive effect of social media addiction, the fear of bucking societal expectation. It should work, but something in this production feels off.
Whereas some allowance should be made for a show with such a short run, dropping into an unfamiliar venue, some of Carlotta Brentan’s directorial choices still need work. Unnecessarily lengthy scene changes are covered with swirlingly cinematic but somewhat meaningless music from Simon Manfredini – for a play so up-to-the-minute with TikTok, it’s a surprisingly dated move. And far too much of the action happens on the floor, screwing up sightlines for far too much of the audience (and not just the sock fetishists), robbing us of opportunities for emotional engagement.
The ending also feels fudged. [Mild spoiler alert] The ethics of adding to that too-high pile of similar stories aside, the extended brutality of the final scene is simply not needed, exploiting queer trauma in an ugly manner. And whilst there’s an attempt to call back with a brighter coda, again it is extending far beyond necessity, sapping the efficacy of its intent. I don’t mean to say that we should only be platforming Pollyanna-ish chirpy LGBTQ+ plays, not at all, but that there’s a deeper responsibility there to interrogate your choices. As it is and despite committed performances from both its actors, Hide and Seek needs work.