How my son’s brush with internet porn inspired a new play

Lizi Patch who has written a new play inspired by her young son's experience of seeing violent porn on the internet.

Lizi Patch who has written a new play inspired by her young son's experience of seeing violent porn on the internet.

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It all began when Lizi Patch’s son, normally a gregarious young boy, became quiet.

A couple of weeks later, he sat down and confessed why his mood had changed: under peer pressure from some older boys at school, he had looked at a video clip of violent pornography.

The 11-year-old found the courage to tell his mother, theatre maker Lizi Patch, and it was the start of a journey that has led, almost three years later, to the story being told on stage.

Patch says: “After 30 years of working as a theatre-maker, I know the power of a good piece of theatre to tell important stories and reach out to hearts and minds in a way that no other medium can. The intensely personal nature of this simple story could so easily be any parent’s story. It has real impact as a piece of theatre and a combination of live action, original media footage, animation and a beautiful score, means it is an assault on the senses, moving and funny in equal measure.”

Back in 2013, when Patch’s son told her what he’d seen, she wrote a blog about the experience and soon found herself recounting the story in national newspapers in England and Australia, and appearing on Newsnight to talk about the issue of pornography and protecting children from it.

Patch also realised she wanted to tell the story on stage and spent last year developing a show about the experience, called Punching The Sky, which embarks on a tour starting in Halifax next week.

“My job is to look after my sons. That means making difficult decisions,” says Patch. “From the moment you become a parent you are responsible for your child’s mental and physical well being and, as any parent knows, each day brings new challenges. Some decisions you make intuitively, some you make after a great deal of thought. Often you can only do what makes sense at the time. At its very heart this play examines exactly that.”

Punching The Sky, which also features Patch on stage alongside two other performers, will visit Leeds, Doncaster, Barnsley, Hull and Harrogate. Patch says: “As long as we have an internet we have to build strategies to cope with the content, and I don’t mean censorship I mean enabling young people to have strategies to cope and contextualize the digital world they are living in. We all have to take responsibility for the well-being of our kids. And that pretty much boils down to conversations – connecting with each other face to face, answering questions openly and honestly. The fact that my son trusts me to tell this story now is testament to our relationship, and that takes work.

“Crucially it has to stand up as a good play, or I’m not doing my job. A play I can be proud of that is testament to the bravery of my son for having the guts to speak out. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career. But it’s my choice as an artist and – after two R&D periods it has become clear that the best way to tell my story is to be in it myself. I want to be honest. I want to do it justice. I love my children and if through seeing this show I can help other parents deal with these very same issues, then it’s all been worth it.”

Tour dates: www.lizipatch.co.uk/punchingthesky

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