Tobia Rossi, writer of Hide and Seek, talks about growing up queer in northern Italy.

Tobia Rossi is the writer of Hide and Seek
Tobia Rossi, writer of Hide and Seek (image supplied).

Following a hit run at VAULT Festival 2023, writer Tobia Rossi’s moving and darkly entertaining Hide and Seek opens at Park Theatre next week, from 12 – 30 March. Hide and Seek pits two teenage boys against each other in the face of the prejudices of a small Italian town. Having never felt accepted by anyone – not by parents, peers, or teachers – Gio disappears to hide in a secluded cave. When popular classmate Mirko discovers him, Gio enlists him as his 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 a series of dramatic consequences in motion. 

QX spoke to Tobia Rossi about the play, and what it’s like to grow up in northern Italy and live a queer life.

Hello Tobia, thank you for joining me. You’re originally from Ovada, a small place in the Piemonte region of northern Italy. “Hide and Seek” (translated from the Italian “Nascondino”) is set in a small Italian town. Gio is constantly and cruelly bullied. He decides enough is enough and disappears. Another play that you wrote, “Portami in un posto carino” (“Take me somewhere nice”), is also a story about homophobia in a small village in northern Italy. To what extent do the gay characters’ experiences in your stories reflect your experience growing up in northern Italy, and was that the driving force behind your leaving? 

Yeah, I was born and raised in the Nineties in a small town which was actually pretty close to Milan but, in another way, miles and miles far away. 

It’s a world in which other people’s gaze somehow define who you are and you have to struggle to find your true self. Of course this applies also to sexual orientation. The feeling of being disconnected, far from the real world, far from freedom, has been my main antagonist through my childhood and adolescence.

That environment for me hindered a proper and healthy sexual coming of age. And I know this is true for a lot of my contemporaries. 

I’d like to say that times have changed but, after I talked with plenty of teachers and teenage psychologists while working on Hide and Seek, I discovered that there’s still a lot of shame in exposing as gay, especially for boys. A sign that the patriarchy, in Italy, is still very popular. At the same time probably nowadays it’s easier to peek inside different worlds, different horizons, to search and find realities similar to you in which you can identify. In my personal experience, moving to Milan to study drama has been the chance to find proper names to thoughts, feelings and impulses that I thought they had no name and, in a way, existed only for me. Weird, I know, yet true. 

You keep the audience on the edge of their seats for the entire duration of Hide and Seek. They are confronted by the challenges experienced by many gay teenagers: loneliness and isolation, bullying, and discrimination. What do you want the audience to take away from this experience?

Hide and Seek is a dark fairy tale, a love story, and above all a drama about the impossibility of being ourselves in a world that is still very much shaped by prejudice and small-mindedness. The suburban setting of the play is the ideal backdrop to explore antiquated points of view as well as the impulses toward freedom and self determination that clash with them.

In 2015, The European Court Of Human Rights ruled against Italy on the issue of same-sex civil unions (though not marriage); it took another year for the legislation to pass. The Government of Giorgia Meloni is now targeting rainbow families. How vulnerable do you think the Italian queer community is at the moment?

Very vulnerable in this peculiar moment. The politics work in a multitude of insidious and intangible ways. They seek to separate people from their true natures in order to steer them toward acceptable, pre-approved concepts of what is right, good, and beautiful. This is a one-size-fits all approach that filters from the top down through all layers of our society, and that is deployed to deliberately exercise social control. In this context, an individual’s attempt to be authentically themselves, to pursue their genuine ideals of love, sex, relationships and beauty, can be the most subversive choice of all. Even in 2024. 

We seem to be constantly returning to issues around bullying and rejection of queer people. How optimistic are you that one day we will be totally accepted?

Well, I see a lot of virtuous attempts to increase awareness, empathy and capacity to see, recognize and respect minorities. 

Hide and Seek was produced in Italy for an audience of teenagers, students, teachers and the general public. One thing that became apparent through this process was how we tend to think of “bullying” as an issue that only affects teenagers, young people, our children. We examine the violence from a safe distance, labelling it as just one of the ways in which young people relate to each other. In doing so, we fail to realise that as adults, we are the ones who first absorbed and later passed on to the next generation this exact vocabulary of aggression and of casual, daily oppression. The most extreme cases we read about in the news – suicides, disappearances, assaults – are just the tip of the iceberg of this pervasive cultural issue.


Hide and Seek runs from 12 to 30 March at Park90, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP, United Kingdom.

Best LGBT Gay Theatre In London March 2024



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