Ben Norris presents the age-old worry that we all going to end up like our parents in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family. From Philip Larkin's infamous, 'they f*** you up, your mum and dad', to the incessant article production by lifestyle magazines, we are pervaded by the notion that becoming our parents is inevitable.
The UK Slam Poetry Champion synthesis one-man show, stand up comedy and spoken word poem to convey the intimacy issues often "ubiquitous" in father-son relationships. Since, as Ben notes, his dad taught him the word "ubiquitous", his whole person is inextricable from paternal influence.
Ben's physical journey is an attempt to recover something authentic about an enigmatic man. Hitchhiking down the M1 from North to South, starting in Nottingham and finishing in Brixton, Ben stops off at landmarks which signify his father's life. However, the marks left by his father are fading: as is the inevitable passing of time. By shedding light on a father-son relationship shrouded in mystery, the production reveals the distance in time and character between children and their parents.
The mutual conversational territory between father and son is limited to sports during car journeys. The cliche of football as an immediate go-to topic between two men haunts their relationship. Ben uses this dialogue as a springboard to question contemporary 'masculinity'. While Ben can 'talk about stuff', his father doesn't, highlighting a gradual shift in attitudes that has taken place between the generations.
By the end of the show, Ben acknowledges the ease of making his play. Through comedy, spoken word and meta-theatricality: he can convey his feelings in a way that suits him. The desire to emotionally reach out and the difficulty of articulating emotion culminates in the play as a finished piece. This is much easier than talking to his father.
The production shows how comedy can be used to mask something more serious. Hilarious moments are partnered with life-affirming ones. Ben can channel his feelings into humour. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family reveals that, although we are likely to be similar people to our parents, we can make a deliberate choice to break away. We can form our own outlets, independent from came before.
Elena Angelides, Theatre Editor
Ben is currently touring the UK: