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Hide and Seek by Tobia Rossi at Park Theatre

If you don’t like a situation you’re in, sometimes the most logical thing to do is to extricate oneself from the said situation. This can, of course, be impossible – take, for instance, a domestic violence and coercive control scenario: as the victim’s every move is being monitored one way or another, escape is quite impossible, a point missed by the ‘why doesn’t she just get out’ brigade. Gio (Louis Scarpa) tries to escape school bullies – in this day and age, bullying is online as well as offline, but it isn’t sufficient to simply delete social media apps off his phone, and he decides to hide in a cave.

Hide and Seek. Credit Mariano Gobbi.
Hide and Seek. Credit Mariano Gobbi.

This isn’t a metaphor. Well, it sort of is, but there’s a whole missing persons campaign going on, and Gio’s mother and other relatives are utterly besides themselves. The rumour mill amongst school classmates is in full swing. That Gio knows about any of this, and is kept fed and watered, is thanks to Mirko (Nico Cetrulo), a classmate, who discovers him while (possibly ostensibly) looking for something else. Gio persuades Mirko not to tell anyone he (Gio) is in hiding, but, as stories like this go, one lie is followed by another one, until something has to give and the whole pack of cards come crashing down.

It’s not entirely predictable, mind you, and the performances from the actors were convincing enough to draw gasps from the audience, more than once. This appears to be a faithful translation of an Italian play, as opposed to one adapted for a London audience – distances are measured in kilometres, and sex education in Italy is evidently still not on the school curriculum, or at least not when the play was written. Gio retains some interest in the outside world, almost interrogating Mirko on anything from media reports to the view count of his last TikTok video.

The pair, relatively quickly, find their friendship blossoms into something deeper, although it’s not entirely clear whether this really is a relationship or, given the literal and metaphorical confines, a friends-with-benefits arrangement. Either way, the possible consequences if they were to become known in their community as gay teenagers dating are thoroughly undesirable, something of a damning indictment in a supposedly more enlightened and accepting world. It seems that, for Gio and Mirko, not even ‘tolerance’ is something they cannot reasonably expect in practice. Oh, and there’s a particularly nasty recollection of Gio being forced to lick the floor in a school classroom: he is certain the incident will be repeated if he returns to school, once again without so much as a detention given to his bullies.

The lighting (Alex Forey) works well throughout, not overstating the point that the play is set entirely in a cave, and allowing the audience to see what’s going on. Bold and unflinching, this is a broad and comprehensive consideration of various contemporary issues faced by younger people today.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Hide and Seek is a moving and darkly entertaining play that pits two teenage boys against each other in the face of the contagious prejudice of their small Italian town. Gio, who has never felt accepted by anyone – not by parents, teachers or peers – decides to disappear and hide out in a secluded cave. When his popular classmate Mirko discovers him, Gio enlists him as an accomplice, convincing him to preserve his secret despite the media frenzy over his disappearance. The boys embark on an unexpected journey towards self-discovery and acceptance, setting in motion a series of dramatic consequences.

ZAVA Productions in association with Lorenzo Mannelli and Park Theatre presents
Hide and Seek
By Tobia Rossi
Translated and directed by Carlotta Brentan
https://parktheatre.co.uk/

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