Sam Lockwood of Hitchhiker Productions is the writer/performer from ‘Pulp’ which we saw at Exeter Phoenix in September 2019, a one-man, auto-biographical account addressing the themes of men’s mental health and toxic masculinity. We met up with him behind the scenes to find out more…

What is it like for you speaking out about not speaking out?

“It’s very liberating. Throughout this whole show, it’s been as rewarding sharing it with audiences and the community; it’s been very therapeutic for me being able to speak to other guys who have experienced other things – it’s such a nice feeling that maybe in one of my shows one guy has thought ‘maybe I’ll be more open.’ The ability to do that has been so rewarding, it’s been a really enjoyable experience.”

Maybe in one of my shows one guy has thought ‘maybe I’ll be more open.’

What are your thoughts on men’s mental health?

“It’s a very strange situation that we find ourselves in – ‘boys don’t cry’, or from a young age ‘oh man up!’ just so commonly thrown around, and you don’t really think much on it, and then you have no idea how much it affects a kid who is told ‘man up!’ from a young age and then lives by that philosophy – you have no idea how much damage that might do in the long term. I think there was a study in 2015 where suicide was the biggest killer for men from the age of 20 – 45, which is obviously an awful thing*. It makes me think this is a good thing to do – we need to share as men our feelings, and be more open with each other.”

You have no idea how much it affects a kid who is told to ‘man up!’

What inspired you to do this in the first place, to turn that experience into a piece of art?

“When we first started working on the show, the director and I were chatting about how we’re both into toxic masculinity and having conversations about it, and I just found accidentally throughout my life that I had experienced it second hand, and I thought if I hadn’t noticed it, then surely men in a similar situation must have not noticed it either. It was the conversations I had with my family as well – this is toxic masculinity through a very personal account of it – and through chatting to my Granddad and my brother about it, and hearing their thoughts, it was just like yeah, I have to do this, and Granddad, coming from an older man there was a beautiful conversation which came after the script had finished, which was a shame, but he was saying that he wished he could cry, that he just couldn’t do it but he wished he could, it would make him feel so much better. I thought that’s lovely, such a great thing to hear.”

If I hadn’t noticed it, then surely men in a similar situation must have not noticed it either.

Can you explain what you mean by toxic masculinity?

“To me it’s the suppression of feelings from men and it’s such a taboo subject and that toxic masculinity sometimes it isn’t’ purposeful, it’s just second hand, and accidental. It’s just making men feel like they can’t feel things.”

 Never feel like you should be scared to open up and chat.

If you had a message you could convey to young men, or boys just starting out on their journey of what is it to be a man, what would your message be?

“Don’t be afraid to yourselves, be who you want to be, not who you think other people want you to be and never feel like you should be scared to open up and chat to everyone, because at the end of the day, once you do start speaking to people and opening up to people, it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.”

* The latest statistics on suicide are for the year 2018

  • Males continue to account for three-quarters of suicide deaths
  • The latest increase in suicide is in males, which has increased by 14% 2017
  • The suicide rate in males aged 20 – 24 has increased by 31% since 2017
  • The highest suicide rate in males is within the 45 – 49 years age group

Source: Office of National Statistics https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2018registrations

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