Timely piece deals with universal parental concerns

Lizi Patch on Newsnight
Lizi Patch on Newsnight
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It began with an 11-year-old boy watching violent pornography in order to fit in at a new school and ended with his mother appearing on national television discussing the issue.

Now Lizi Patch has turned the experience into a stage show which hopes to help people discuss the unspeakable.

Punching the Sky, which is being developed by West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Lowry and Live Theatre in Newcastle, is the play Patch has written and she will share the work carried out on the project so far at Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill on Monday.

The sharing will be an opportunity for audiences to see the work in development before it goes on to be presented in a finished form to theatre audiences later in the year.

As well as appearing on Newsnight to discuss the issues she tackles in the play with Jeremy Paxman, Patch also travelled to London to discuss what happened with MPs.

She says: “In March last year my 11-year-old son told me he’d been pressurised into watching some brutal – and illegal – porn on a smartphone.

“I published a blog post as part of dealing with the issues raised, which was then picked up by the Independent newspaper and many others across the globe.

“I appeared on Newsnight and was invited to Westminster to talk to the Shadow Cabinet about the tidal wave of questions, opinions and accusations that speaking out prompted.

“I’d touched a massive open, hungry nerve.”

The nerve was that of parents who don’t know how to deal with such a difficult issue. Patch’s son had become withdrawn and upset for days before he was finally able to speak to his mother about what he had seen and the effect it had on him.

When he did talk to her he explained the hardest part was that he couldn’t now ‘unsee’ the violent pornography that boys at his school had coerced him into watching.

Patch turned to social media and a blog to share 
her experience.

As a theatre-maker of 20 years’ experience, she is 
now turning that experience into a play that will tackle the issues and, she hopes, help others.

“The overwhelming reaction, the avalanche of emails I have received from parents around the globe shows that the theme of the show is incredibly timely. Put simply, everyone has an opinion on this and no-one really knows what to do.

“It stirs strong passions about issues of freedom of speech, censorship, technology and the contradictory nature of our feelings about sex, power and parenthood.”

Patch, who also appears in Punching the Sky, has been pleased with the reaction of the piece so far, being developed with the help of Arts Council funding.

“The reaction has been great, one young woman who came to a workshop we held said: ‘Personally I was shocked that an 11 year old felt he had to look at violent porn simply to ‘fit in’. I became slightly nostalgic and thought about my struggle to fit into secondary school that involved throwing paper planes, not watching extreme porn online. This made me realized how much has changed in the past seven or eight years.’”

Punching The Sky, Theatre in the Mill, Bradford, Feb 24. Tickets 01274 233200.