It’s easy to see why young actors wanted to work with Chris Goode. Few people had more contacts with the drama schools they attended, the theatres they aspired to work in and the talents they idolised. For years, the theatremaker was as underground as he was influential: inspiring the country’s most mainstream talents, while always being seen as something of an avant-garde maverick.
The artistic director of the influential Camden People’s Theatre from 2001 to 2004 (for full transparency, I developed a play, Hyper-Ballad, at the CPT in 2018, long after Goode’s involvement had ended), Goode’s plays were often either community-focused or one-man shows, in which he performed stories of suicide, bruised men and homosexuality. Praise rolled in from Britain’s biggest critics, along with industry accolades – over his career, he won four Fringe Firsts, the highest award for new writing at the Edinburgh Fringe.
But in 2014, he started a new theatre company called Ponyboy Curtis – a reference to the narrator of the novel The Outsiders and its movie adaptation – and the direction of his work shifted. Ponyboy, as its members often called it, was an “unusually long-lasting”, rotating ensemble of “boys” that would, as Goode said in an investigation into his practices, “allow for an unusually bold approach to the staging of intimacy… including nakedness, eroticised nudity, and, ultimately, real (non-simulated) sexual contact.”
At first, the work Ponyboy Curtis produced was lauded as “radical”. Yet by 2021, Goode was found to be running a rehearsal room that promoted “disempowerment, sometimes helplessness” according to an inquiry, plus accusations from some members of sexual abuse, coercion and assault. Though there is no suggestion that every member of the Ponyboy company was a victim of Goode’s, one of his actors said it felt like “[being] in a cult where we’d all be sold on this thing and then afterwards you’re like: ‘Holy shit. How did he get away with it?’”
The answer being: everyone turned a blind eye. The audience didn’t know about it. Critics and actors only doubted it privately, and theatres only realised what went on when it was too late. Plus, he was surrounded by influential figures, working with some of the country’s most renowned theatres. How could they be enabling something like this?
In 2003, Goode took his show Kiss of Life to Edinburgh. It was there that Maddy Costa, then Guardian Deputy Arts Editor, saw his work for the first time. A one-man show performed and written by Goode, it told the story of a man who saves another from suicide, only to ask the latter to assist in his own. She can still remember every single detail of that play, every beat, every leitmotif. “I fell in love completely,” she says. Both with his work and, in her own way, with him.
Costa is a highly respected arts critic and a devilishly clever woman – in retrospect, a perfect smokescreen for Goode. After years of loving his work, in 2011 Goode invited her to join Chris Goode and Company as a “narrator critic”, essentially an embedded critic of the company’s work for its own benefit, which was – and still is – rare to see. He asked her, she says, to be “the heart, the eyes and the conscience” of the company. What better way to obfuscate bad behaviour than to have it unwittingly legitimised by brilliant minds?
She was not the only one to fall for Goode after being enlisted to document his work. In 2014, a 20-year-old American student called Griffyn Gilligan was doing his MA at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, known colloquially as “Central”, when he learned that Goode, then aged 41, was the next guest practitioner for his course. Not knowing much about him, the night before Goode came in, Gilligan read a few of his plays. “It was the first time I lost track of time,” he says.
Later, Gilligan saw a Kickstarter page for Ponyboy Curtis. He got in touch, and they agreed that Gilligan would come in to “do creative documentation” – largely filming or photographing parts of the rehearsal process. But when a couple of actors didn’t turn up to the first rehearsals in December 2014, Gilligan ended up becoming a member of the ensemble. The company’s first show, Ponyboy Curtis: At The Yard, started in May 2015 and, on the last night, Gilligan and Goode kissed. Two weeks later, Gilligan came to Goode’s birthday drinks at the BFI Southbank, in Waterloo. “That was when we officially started dating.” By July 2018, they were married.
Gilligan was one of two actors who remained in Ponyboy Curtis from its first day to the end. The other, Ben*, met Goode when he was visiting a friend in London, who was in a “very intense performance-sexual relationship” with the influential artist. Soon after, the then-18-year-old Ben was invited to rehearse with Goode, which ended in him being asked to masturbate while looking at his reflection.
Ben withdrew from Goode after that incident, but when he graduated from university and became more comfortable with his sexuality, he felt more able to engage with the process. “l’d come into a room and wank. Chris was like: ‘You’re the best there’s ever been, you’re amazing at this work’,” he says. The academic language and venerated spaces “made it safe,” Ben would tell himself, “even though the thing itself doesn’t feel safe.”
Sam Hopkins was also drafted into Ponyboy Curtis while studying for an MA at Central, when Goode was a guest lecturer on his course. While he hadn’t heard much of Goode beforehand, Hopkins had learned that “the point of the course was to create experimental theatremakers like Chris”. Goode invited the then-22-year-old Hopkins to audition for the company in 2016, saying he “wouldn’t be required to get naked” although there may be “bonus points” if he did. Attached to the invite was a “Ponyboy Inspiration Scrapbook video”, which, Hopkins says, “was mainly porn”. When he didn’t get naked in the audition, Goode emailed saying “we just feel like you might be a bit too held back and reserved” to be cast. Desperate to please, Hopkins agreed to get naked going forward.
Former Ponyboy member Blue*, whose pronouns are they/them, became obsessed with Goode in the same way as Maddy Costa – via his work. So when Goode put out an open call for Ponyboy members, they leapt at the chance. They met on a lunch break to discuss it, which was like “sitting with your heroes” for Blue. But at their 2017 open audition, aged 23, the air was frosty. “None of the Ponyboys were welcoming in any way,” they explain. Goode had changed too: gone was the man who checked in, or came for coffee during lunch. “I was like… do you even know who I am?”
In Ponyboy rehearsals, actors stood around a taped-out space called “The Field”, which was ostensibly the only stage in which performance occurred. These performances were almost entirely nonverbal improvisations, but actors did not move into the space of their own volition. Instead, Goode would call out a number from a list of “permissions” – the higher up the list, the more complicated the action.
For the 2016 show FCKSYSTMS, the early permissions are just walking, or holding hands. By 13, “kissing (degrees of heat)” is written in bold, which means – as said at the bottom of the page – it “must be enacted before we move on”. No. 19 was “intimate touch/erotic contact” (not bolded). There were physical movements after, like lifting, skipping, falling as a group or types of dance.
Goode presented the permissions as an infinite list where “permission 938 might be to perform Hamlet,” Hopkins recalls. For others the inevitable ceiling was clear. “The 50th permission in Chris’s mind was always [an] orgy,” says Ben. “It was an attritional way of stating what he wanted.” One directorial note Chris gave for 2017’s Vs, Blue paraphrases, was: “Can we ramp up the sex at that bit? Can you just get an orgy going?”
For new performers, the rules of The Field were not always clear. One of the tactics Goode used to enable his manipulation was the use of “extremely technical, abstract academic language that became the currency in the room,” says Blue. It was so impenetrable that Hopkins began to assume his inability to understand Goode’s vision was a flaw in him. “People would see the work and read things into it that I didn’t. They’d use language where I just couldn’t work out what they meant from it.” Ultimately, he was left feeling “stupid… by people not wanting to seem dumb”.
This breakdown of communication in rehearsals didn’t only serve to humiliate. With no way of talking normally and directly to each other, no one could address moments in rehearsals where their sexual or physical boundaries had been stepped over by others. And with the work being nonverbal, consent – in the form we know it – was completely absent.
When performers joined Ponyboy, they signed a contract that stated consent might not always be able to be secured verbally and that “you are responsible for your own experience”. The Ponyboys were all told the same thing throughout rehearsals: it was on them to leave a situation that made them feel uncomfortable. But if you did say no, or ended an interaction? “You undo the entire structure of the work,” says Gilligan.
As time went on, Ben’s one-on-one rehearsals with Goode continued, but now other cast members were invited to join. These rehearsals with two invited performers, in most instances reported to me, involved sexual activity that both parties were uncomfortable with. On one occasion between Ben and Gilligan, there was an added pressure: Goode had locked the door to their rehearsal space in the CPT’s basement.
Gilligan tells me that “there were strong pressures to give a hand job to, and perform oral sex on, Ben” and that Ben was “dismissive” of him. But Ben remembers it differently: “I felt like I was being sexually exploited by a couple, and had a sex act performed on me I really didn’t want,” Ben says. “If Griffyn thinks that I was the abuser in that room, I find it disheartening. Because Chris created this room where all the victims blamed each other”.
In response, Gilligan told THE FACE that “Chris’ influence was clearly very strong, but it could only go so far,” while Ben stressed that “I didn’t want what happened in that session to take place, but felt I had to go along with it”. (The CPT told me they were “shocked and saddened” to hear what happened, and “no one should have to endure situations of abuse of power like this”. Following subsequent allegations, they reviewed their safeguarding procedures, including a new Code of Conduct that extends to freelancers as well as full-time staff.)
Trying to find information about what the audience might have seen during a Ponyboy Curtis show isn’t easy – reviews rarely, if ever, address what happened on stage with the suggestion that something untoward was occurring between actors. But although each show was different, the premise and contents of the work was the same: unsimulated sex and physically gruelling performances, carried out by nubile young men. Sometimes, this led to injuries – Hopkins says he was concussed at least once – and worse. During one 2016 performance, Gilligan alleges he was sexually assaulted on stage. (The venue he alleges it took place at fully complied with the ensuing police investigation, which has now been completed.)
Some people close to the performers expressed concern. Blue showed a recording of Ponyboy’s work to their partner at the time, who found it “really fucking problematic”. When their friends came to see 2017’s Vs, they took Blue aside and said: “I think you need to watch out for yourself.”
But this was no match for the industry’s adoration, even if behind closed doors people were less certain of Goode’s vision. “The work was being made for theatre people,” says Hopkins, and nobody in theatre “wants to be the person who says: ‘I didn’t get it.’” Some people, however, did speak out: right before Vs, company producer Xavier de Sousa saw a reply to a post about the performance on Facebook from a former Ponyboy. They alleged that the work was not only uncollaborative, but also that the performer had been abused in rehearsals.
Born and raised in a small Portuguese town that’s home to “the oldest live art and experimental art festival in Europe”, de Sousa had always loved the idiosyncratic, sexually curious work he saw coming out of Europe and thought Goode’s shows were similarly “radical work, specifically for the UK context”. In 2016, he was asked to come on as a new producer for Chris Goode & Company – Goode’s “more palatable arm,“ according to Ben. “I was told straight away that Ponyboy Curtis will be outside of my remit,” says de Sousa. “Which is not what happened in the end.”
When de Sousa started, it became clear that Chris Goode & Company was in “deep financial turmoil” and had “no structure”. There were other red flags, too, which are clearer in retrospect – namely Goode’s insistence that “he would never have anyone in Ponyboy that was over the age of 25”. Until that message, however, he had no idea anything might be amiss beyond the company’s spreadsheets. He tried to get more information from the former Ponyboy who alleged abuse, but the performer didn’t want to be part of any further response. “So I confronted Chris,” says de Sousa, “and I was told by him and everyone involved in Ponyboy at the time that it was all just a misunderstanding.” De Sousa reluctantly let it go.
Then, after Vs in June 2017, de Sousa booked a company meeting to talk about what would come next. Most performers needed a break. With fewer of the original cast around and increasingly mad scrambles before a performance, Ponyboy Curtis felt “like clutching at straws”. In that meeting, Goode announced the closure of Ponyboy Curtis indefinitely, which “devastated” Blue. Even those who saw it coming were shocked by the finality.
While the Ponyboys recalibrated, Goode was on a roll. His main company now had the Arts Council’s NPO funding, and in late 2017 he began working on an adaptation of Derek Jarman’s 1978 transgressive punk film Jubilee for major UK venues. But his practices hadn’t changed. When Goode offered Ben the chance to be in the show it was clearly under one condition: “I had to be doing the one-on-one rehearsals.”
While Ben’s sessions had first started in celebrated rehearsal rooms, they’d now moved to Airbnbs and hotels, in which Goode was getting both more involved and more violent. But when Goode tried to make these actors rehearse in his signature style, they saw right through him. The cast of Jubilee “were really smart people that identified the problems immediately”. No longer able to use academic bluster to oppress the talent he’d groomed, the cast would simply call him out for “justifying exploitation,” Ben says. “Chris basically put together the parts for his own dismantling.”
Gilligan, meanwhile, was promised a role in Jubilee that never materialised. When he asked Goode why, Gilligan says he was told that “you’re not going to be in the show. Because I want Ben. And I know you don’t get along.” So, with Ponyboy Curtis shuttered and Goode working on his new show, Gilligan decided to publish a blog post about his experiences in the company. In it, Gilligan accused a nameless member of Ponyboy Curtis of “a long-standing pattern” of abusive and degrading sexual encounters, including in a locked rehearsal room.
For de Sousa, it was now the second abuse allegation he had heard in relation to Goode. Soon after, another ex-Ponyboy approached him outside the Royal Exchange in tears, “saying that they have been coerced into very compromising positions in rehearsal rooms with Chris”.
Any romanticism de Sousa felt for the work he was producing evaporated then and there. He sent an email to Goode, Maddy Costa and Ric Watts – a co-director of Chris Goode & Company who was also producing Jubilee as a staff member from the famed Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester – with proof of all three allegations of abuse, demanding an investigation.
The response from Goode was worse than de Sousa could have imagined. “I was told this was a ridiculous thing for me to demand, and if something like that was to happen, close friends of mine – and their names were very explicit – would suffer [the] consequences.”
Looking back, Watts regrets trusting Goode to deal with the response on his own. “Xav was absolutely right to be calling for an investigation,” Watts says. “His emotional distance from the company meant he could see what was happening in a way that I couldn’t.”
With no support from the team, de Sousa either had to leave the company or go to the police. But the latter felt untenable, because the accusers “were some of the most precarious cultural workers in the sector”: immigrants, people with mental health issues, performers with traumas connected to experiences with law enforcement. “So I quit the company,” he says.
While Jubilee continued, de Sousa “stayed in bed for four and a half months,” suffering from panic attacks and PTSD. Then, Jubilee cast member Lucy Ellinson reached out to him, after she’d learned of horrible goings-on. “And I’m really glad she did, because I think I’d probably still be in bed if she hadn’t,” de Sousa says. They agreed on two courses of action: Ellinson would speak to the Royal Court and Royal Exchange and push for an inquiry. De Sousa, meanwhile, would rally the former Ponyboys.
An inquiry did indeed take place in 2018 at the behest of the Royal Court and the Royal Exchange, funded by Chris Goode & Company, and run by entertainment HR expert Lucinda Harvey & Associates. But many cast members weren’t ready to seek closure. Sam Hopkins, for instance, found the idea that Ponyboy Curtis might have been anything more than unpleasant too much to come to terms with. When he spoke to Lucinda Harvey, it “was still difficult for me to see bad intention,” he says, and he downplayed his experiences. Blue did the same: “I remember saying for me, at the time, the group stuff wasn’t problematic. I’m not saying it wasn’t. I’m saying I didn’t realise it was.”
In the end, the report found that “the vast majority of those who were interviewed had experiences that were less than satisfactory and some had been badly hurt – and continued to be so – by that experience.” It also made 10 recommendations to fix the issues within Chris Goode & Company, which included a “serious consideration” that all recordings of the work be destroyed, and “serious consideration as to whether the work of such an intimate nature should continue”. When we contacted her to ask further questions about the inquiry, Lucinda Harvey declined to speak further.
While everyone digested the report’s contents, de Sousa got an invitation for a coffee from Harvey. There, he says, she told him three things: Chris was referring to people “as objects or a means to an end,” that “the investigation didn’t go anywhere near everything” because they “ran out of money and time,” and that “there’s no structure in the sector [to make sure] this company is going to be held accountable.”
So who would hold them accountable? Harvey told him: “It’s down to you, the victims.” De Sousa took this challenge and ran with it, even at his lowest ebb. While trying to get the survivors to meet, he repeatedly held Chris Goode & Company’s feet to the fire in anonymised emails, demanding they follow the recommendations of the report. He lost his ability to be civil in 2019, when Chris Goode & Company advertised that “there was a room in the apartment Chris was going to rent in Edinburgh that was free and available for a young practitioner,” while staging his new showNarcolepsy. De Sousa excoriated the company over another email, which eventually led to the departure of both the new company producer and Ric Watts, while Narcolepsy was cancelled.
Then the pandemic hit, which meant Goode “didn’t have to worry about people being upset by him going to do any work,” says Gilligan. But at the start of 2021, Goode became physically abusive to Gilligan “to a degree I’d never seen”. In the worst instance, Gilligan says Goode “pinned me against the wall because he’d stepped on one of his [own] insulin needles”. When the police arrived, Gilligan was asked if he had ever been sexually assaulted during a routine battery of questions, and the ensuing conversation re-opened his allegation from 2016. His initial complaint had been kicked into the long grass, resulting in its dismissal in entirety at the end of 2020.
By the time the police were ready to interview Gilligan about the 2016 sexual assault allegation in May 2021, Goode had moved all of his possessions into the living room of his and Gilligan’s home and was sleeping there. Gilligan needed footage of the 2016 show for the police and was convinced Goode had ignored the inquiry’s suggestions and kept footage of it. So, when Goode went to stay in an Airbnb to work on a new show, Gilligan went into the living room and booted up one of his external hard drives to find it. “Literally the first folder on his hard drive had videos and images of infants – some months old, some up to a year,” he says. “Some of them were pictures, and some were of adults sexually assaulting those kids.”
Gilligan filed an online police report and, at 1.30am, a dozen or so police swarmed the house; less than four hours after the report was received, Goode had been arrested. He was put on bail with heavy restrictions, which was estimated to be extended for at least a year. But before that could happen, Goode forged a Chris Goode & Company letter to allow him to stay at a nearby hotel under Covid rules. On the morning of June 1st, hotel staff found Goode’s corpse after he failed to check out. He was 48.
Gilligan learned of Goode’s death on 2nd June. His husband’s 19-page suicide note, he says, “didn’t really accept, or focus on, what harm he had caused”. Instead, Goode wrote about how the charges against him were “going to mess up my work and my legacy”. Regarding the photos and videos that had led to his arrest, his point of view was very clear, says Gilligan: “I see why I’ve been arrested, and I see why I’m being prosecuted for this. Also, I don’t agree with it. And I stand behind these choices. And I think it’s important and beautiful that people make these images and videos.” Goode went on to say he didn’t want this “dissonance” to “get in the way of how people see my work. I think the work itself should still be valued. And that’s why I’m dying.”
It is worth noting, at this point, that Chris Goode’s legacy contains a dangerous combination of attributes often connected to homosexual men. Political movements looking to whip up homophobic sentiment have incorrectly associated homosexuality with the grooming of minors and paedophilia: we see it in the language of the Third Reich, in Section 28, and even now in the insidious remarks of gender-critical thinkers who accuse drag queens in libraries of being overly sexualised threats to their charges.
Goode was a homosexual man who groomed a number of the young men he directed, and who was revealed to have a sexual interest in children. One did not make the others inevitable. But this complicated instance of someone living up to some of the most dangerous and damaging stereotypes of homosexuality out there is part of the complicated legacy his cast has had to untangle since.
Several people I spoke to said Goode’s suicide note implied his work was in service of normalising an interest in younger, prepubescent men, and in quotes shared with THE FACE, Goode does allude to this connection. “I think if we could ouija board Chris in, he’d probably agree with me,” says Gilligan. “If he believed those two things could be kept entirely separate, I don’t think he would have killed himself.”
In the wake of his arrest and suicide, there was a “queasiness” that actors like Ben felt, both because of the charges brought against him and how, looking back, his dynamic with Goode “felt like an affair”. But in other ways, not having Goode around was beneficial. After the Lucinda Harvey report, Ben found Goode’s “venomous” faux-apologies difficult to stomach. This time around, knowing they had a chance to heal “without fear of reprise” made it simpler in the long run.
Those that had participated in the Lucinda Harvey report – plus a few others – were offered individual counselling, while Ponyboy Curtis alumni were offered group sessions. Blue, at first, was unsure why they were being “funded to go through this when other people are sexually abused, and have less power.” Sam Hopkins, too, had hoped “to put this all in a suitcase, walk away, never think about it again, and just chalk it up to life experience.”
But everyone I spoke to, including Blue and Hopkins, said they benefited from the chance to be in the room and talk about it. Hopkins, in particular, found it helpful that the process avoided “coming up with one version of the story that we all agree on with the power of hindsight.” While they had all survived Goode’s abuse, manipulation and gaslighting, he says, “it was important for us to be able to hold our own individual experiences of what happened.”
This was something Blue found hard. “During the group sessions, I felt myself saying less and less, because there was such a plurality of experiences. My feelings toward what happened are still changing a lot.” Ultimately, Blue is grappling with what all of this means, and where they sit in it. “I consented to going on stage and doing that. And I do think it’s on me. And I know other people would disagree with that.” They pause, and when they speak again their perspective is slightly more forgiving. “I feel really sad that the young version of me wasn’t looked after. And I felt really sad that I thought it was OK to put my body and other bodies through what we did. I feel really sad that we damaged each other and that I damaged myself.”
Gilligan was offered to join the process but didn’t feel like it was the right fit. There were too many people in the room who would be antithetical to his own healing. “They told me that it was important for everyone else’s healing for me to show up and be in that room,” says Gilligan. “Unfortunately, given everything that happened, even if that was true, I couldn’t put other people’s healing ahead of avoiding trying to kill myself every day.”
Maddy Costa supported de Sousa’s band of rebels from a distance, while assessing how she had been “enabling Chris” through “mythmaking and romanticising”. Her grief for the man she’d once respected above all others turned to anger following Goode’s arrest. The day she found out, she sent de Sousa an email, apologising for her previous “inability to see Chris truly, the ways in which he causes harm” and acknowledging that de Sousa “saw it much sooner than me”. When she joined the group, it became an education in transformative justice (an approach to responding to abuse without perpetuating it). Although she understands that venues and high-profile individuals are wary of talking about their relationships with Goode, she sees dialogue as a tool for repair and has a new understanding of how “writing about abuse, without that dialogue, can actually replicate the harm”.
But despite this process of healing, many of those affected have left their artforms or London behind, as a kind of exorcism. Blue and Hopkins have both left theatre entirely; Hopkins is now studying physiotherapy, in part because “the connections that I had through that work were at theatres who wanted to distance themselves from the performers in Ponyboy Curtis. Everyone wanted to pretend that it didn’t exist.” Blue felt the same: “Everyone was either a friend of Chris or an enemy of Chris. There was no one who didn’t have skin in the game who I felt like could you trust.”
Ben says he is now inherently suspicious of directors who work with the same actors over and over again, or work in drama schools. Although he continues to work in theatre, he has actively avoided the sort of venues and rehearsal rooms he worked in with Goode. Now, he’s largely involved with areas of theatre disenfranchised from the world he now associates with his time in Ponyboy Curtis.
But perhaps the hardest thing for him to unknot, which comes up in his darkest moments, is the fact he feels like “a stooge or a lieutenant for Chris”. Now he looks back at rehearsal rooms, where he was the golden child, and can’t distinguish between affability and complicity. “I don’t like that about me right now. I wouldn’t have an issue with it if it hadn’t led to such harm.”
Everybody has different suggestions of how the arts, as an industry, needs to improve to prevent another Chris Goode. “Put intimacy coordinators in the room, people that aren’t embedded in the practice.” says Ben. “That would certainly have stopped every sexual assault I was the victim of.“ De Sousa says it’s vital for artists to join unions and be active in them; Costa talked about how venues need to challenge “the romance of the male genius” and, if they have heard any allegations from a performer or about one, they need to anonymise the alleged victim and announce openly that they won’t work with the accused.
De Sousa and Costa, along with Lucy Ellinson, have now published an extensive list of calls to action and recommendations for sector change. In particular, they call on anyone feeling concerned about a potentially inappropriate relationship to ask questions and challenge it, rather than remain silent and uncomfortable.
Hopkins found other parts of the industry had been complicit in letting Goode wield so much influence: reviewers were too cosy – “[Ponyboy] wasn’t reviewed by critics, it was reviewed by other artists” – and even if audiences felt uncomfortable, he doesn’t understand why more people didn’t try and challenge what they were seeing on stage. In the years since, Hopkins says multiple people have said “we all knew” about Goode’s abusive behaviours. “And it’s like… well, say something!”
He also places blame at the feet of Central. His drama school celebrated him working with Goode, his lecturers came to see the work. But “when everything fell apart I never once heard from anyone who still runs that course.” When contacted by THE FACE, the school said they “ceased all association” with Goode in 2019, and that they “[have] never received a formal complaint from a student or graduate related to Mr Goode.”
But it shouldn’t be on survivors to prevent abuse. At the start of 2022, there was a meeting between a number of former senior figures associated with Chris Goode & Company and the survivors “to get some clarity towards what happened within the company whilst we challenged it from the outside,” says de Sousa. At the end of the meeting, Hopkins turned to everyone and asked: “We’re all here, but we’re exhausted. So what are you going to do about it? I already feel I’ve wasted years of my life on this stuff. And I don’t think it should necessarily be our responsibility.” Since then, not a single person present has reached out to him.
Speaking to those who had been hurt by Goode, it was hard not to get pulled into the same games he played with the Ponyboys. It’s easy to get caught up in how the imagery of his plays bled into his treatment of real people and the “linguistic gymnastics” (to quote Gilligan) he used to oppress his collaborators. But understanding why Goode did what he did is not the priority anymore – healing is.
“I’m not really interested in knowing how villain-led all of this is,” Ben says as we end our chat. “There’s only so much empathy you can have for a state of mind you have no interest in. And actually there’s something really helpful in saying that out loud.”
This move, in fact, is the main way Ben can tell he’s been able to heal. “It just stops him from appearing in the periphery of your mind, which he has done for years.” Now, when he meets someone else in theatre, he says, Ponyboy Curtis is not the first thing he has to talk about.
*Some names have been changed for anonymity
If you or someone you know has been affected by issues of sexual abuse, contact The Survivors Trust on their confidential helpline (0808 801 0818).