I started working on Ballistic with writer, Alex Packer, two and a half years ago. He came to me with an idea, based on the manifesto of a young man who committed an act of mass murder and then killed himself. We workshopped bits of text Alec had begun to write and since then it has been a collaborative process the whole way. Director Anna Marsland, came on board and the play developed even further as we became clearer on the things we wanted to discuss with the piece. As we approach our run at The King's Head, we keep researching and trying to understand this difficult subject and approach it with some level of empathy, these people who do terrible things are not necessarily born monsters.
This is my first one-person play, and it's an incredibly interesting thing to attempt as a performer. You have no one onstage to bounce off, so your relationship with the audience becomes the anchor of the whole thing, you have to feel how the audience are responding a whole lot more, and either go with them for a bit, or steer them back to where they need to be for the arc to make sense.
The reason this play is so important to me, and the reason I have been attached for so long, is because the issues haven't gone away, and the mass shootings continue to happen, and the media keep responding in the same predictable fashion. I've researched lots of shootings and delved into the depths of alt-right and men's rights forums online looking for clues, I think it's time world leaders did the same.
I'm writing this blog on 15/2/18, and I don't want to have to mention it, but equally I can't ignore it; my heart is broken for the community surrounding Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, because more children and teachers will never get another day, and more children and teachers witnessed something they should never have to and try and move on with their lives.
Some young men out there are feeling angry, and lonely, and rejected by "normal" society. There's increasing poverty, and under-funding of education and mental health organisations. Guns are fetishised and violence is all around us. No single thing is driving young men to commit violent acts, but why aren't we looking at the whole picture and trying to work out what the causes may be? in order to try and get them the help they need.
When I went to journalism school, there was this thing, "when a dog bites a man" that's not a story, "when a man bites a dog", that's a story! But sometimes you have to ask yourself, why do these dogs keep biting people? Why do the same people keep getting bitten? And who controls these dogs? Sometimes the fact that something keeps happening in a place is a reason to investigate it and not a reason to ignore it. - Gary Yongue (Interview 2018)