F*cking Men***+ (King’s Head Theatre)

Posted: August 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

F-cking MenThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

The general concept of Arthur Schnitzler’s play La Ronde, written in 1897, has come around in many guises over the years – the musical Hello Again and David Hare’s The Blue Room are examples – and here Joe DiPietro gives a distinctly modern twist to the old story. This production is a revival of the play that already holds the record (nine months) for a run at the King’s Head. It tells of a chain of lovers linked together by carnal desires, but torn between sexual freedom and commitment. Repeated references to the “only connect” passage in EM Forster’s Howard’s End underline that the play’s central purpose is to examine the nature of connections that people make with each other.. Oh, and in case the title had not given it away, all the characters are gay males, although, in the equal society of 2015, sexual orientation may be regarded as incidental. DiPietro is writing about the wider human condition, but the assertion by one character that the advantage of being gay is not being trapped by monogamy now seems rather ironic. This 90-minute merry-go-round ride begins in a park at night with John (Chris Wills), a rent boy, picking up a soldier (Harper James), who justifies the encounter to himself, unconvincingly, with “you take girls to dinner first, with guys you just have to look”. The soldier develops a taste for the thrill and the danger of casual liaisons and goes to a sauna, where he meets a tutor (Ruben Jones), who then finds it impossible to resist the teasing of a 21-year-old student (Euan Brokie). When the student sets up an internet hook-up with an older man (Jonathan McGarrity), DiPietro begins to explore the fragility of marital fidelity. The man is having this casual dalliance for no better reason than that his spouse (Richard De Lisle) does the same regularly, observing agreed rules (or so he believes). But these scenes ask whether monogamy and promiscuity can ever co-exist without deceit. A porn actor (Haydn Whiteside) who yearns to be valued for more than just his physical attributes, a fringe playwright (Darren Bransford), a closeted Hollywood movie star (Johnathon Neal) and a television chat show host (Richard Stemp) all follow in the chain until, finally, the latter hires the services of John. By its nature, the play is episodic, but Geoffrey Highland’s simply-staged production flows smoothly from scene to scene. It is edgy, acted with conviction and, with soft music such as Ravel’s Bolero heard in the background, tinged with pathos. The play offers a witty and entertaining reflection on the fundamental human dilemma – to commit to someone or to roam free or both? In the final segment, a hint of sentimentality creeps in and DiPietro seems to come down on the side of commitment, but, otherwise, he presents all the cases objectively and leaves us to decide for ourselves.

Performance date: 8 August 2015

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