We had the chance to talk to Paloma Oakenfold, the playwright and director of STUD, a new play about a 16 year old footballer with a secret. The play explores sexuality, masculinity and a young football-lover coming of age at a time where his family life is rocky and there are no gay pro-footballers.
What drove you to write Stud?
I work with teenagers and it struck me what a rough time boys have expressing themselves… I’m not saying girls don’t too, but I think sometimes we forget about the strict social conditioning that young men fall victim to. ‘Masculine’ behaviour teaches boys to be afraid of their emotions. They aren’t given the vocabulary to decipher what it is they are experiencing- to the extent they almost become numbed to the range and colour of the emotional palette they possess.
I wanted to explore ‘masculinity’: everything from toughness to toxicity, from what women want to what men expect, from what it means to conform to what it costs to rebel. It was at that time I heard through Stonewall that ‘there are currently no openly gay or bi players at any level of professional football’. A talented gay teen contained within the Football world seemed an interesting, complicated clash to explore.
Who is Stud for?
Stud is a really fun, touching play and I hope it will speak to a lot of people. It’s been developed with roundtables with LGBTQ+ youth and, with the support of Arts Council England, we’re doing a week of free shows for footballers aged 16+, so we’re aiming to reach a wide audience. Stud is for people who want to see a story about issues we’ve all encountered – love, family and relationships – and also people who are interested in issues of gender and sexuality. I also hope lots of young men come to see it and can start to think about how constricting certain male behaviour traits can be.
What is it about theatre that makes it a great platform for LGBTQIA+ discussion?
Theatre is the best place to have any discussion. Once we can talk frankly and openly with each other, things can start to move forwards and in theatre you can say anything. It’s always important to put underrepresented groups in the spotlight and learn through them how we can make this world a more inclusive, accepting place for everybody.
What theatre ‘turn offs’ do you have?
Anything too ‘safe’ is a bit dry isn’t it?! I like theatre to be provocative and brave. I’m a bit over naked hanging bulbs too.
What was the last show that moved you to action?
I haven't bought a single thing from Amazon since watching ‘Wish List’…. I never really understood the zero hours contract issue until watching that play. F*** those big global corporations with no respect for those at the bottom of the chain, working their arses off for them.
What shows at VAULT are you looking forward to?
‘The Episode’ as if it’s attached to some fellow Bristolians from the Wardrobe Theatre. My mate Robin Steegman runs ‘The Caravan Theatre’ and she’s a total don- so that too. Plus ‘Follow Suit’ and ‘Red Bastard’ for some wild, anarchic clowning
STUD is at the VAULT Festival from 14-18 Feb!