Some of you may have heard of an app called Grindr. It is a social app for gay men that enables them to chat and arrange to meet up. Okay, it may be a bit more than that but once again I must remember my mother reads these things. Anyway, if I was to download it and switch it on now, two things would become apparent very quickly. The first is that a lot of people take really bad photographs which seem to cut off their heads and the second is that the world is divided into those that say ‘chems OK’ and those that say ‘No Chems’. Being firmly on the ‘No Chems’ side, it is interesting to delve, if only briefly, on the other. Such an opportunity is available as Patrick Cash’s play The Chemsex Monologues makes a welcome return to the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.
As the title suggests, The Chemsex Monologues are a series of monologues dealing with the subject of chemsex. They basically follow the story of Nameless (Denholm Spurr) one of those beautiful young gay men seen cruising Compton Street. He is introduced to us by the narrator (Kane Surry) who runs into him at a Vauxhall club. On the surface, Nameless is to paraphrase the saying, young, dumb and full of fun, but underneath, he is a young lad who has probably sailed through life without any real hassles and has found his happiness in London tasting everything that the gay scene has to offer. But there is something missing from his life. He seems to yearn for a real relationship with another person but believes that can only happen with the help of drink, drugs and sex. So, after running into his favourite porn star, the two of them head off to a ‘chillout’ session at Old Mother Meph’s. Here, he sees Fag Hag Cath (Charly Flyte) who is there with her GBF Steve. At another party, Nameless runs into Sexual Health Worker Daniel (Matthew Hodson). As we follow Nameless on his hedonistic journey around London we encounter happiness, joy, despair, betrayal, friendship and tragedy.
This is the second time I have seen The Chemsex Monologues and I have to say it really stands up to a second viewing. In fact, my entire interpretation of the story has changed completely on a second viewing, as have my thoughts about the various characters. Just as in real life, how the audience interacts with the characters will depend on a lot of factors that are outside of the control of the writer and Director Luke Davies. However, the important thing I think is that no matter who you are, you will get something out of the superb writing of Patrick Cash and the characters he has created. There is a real sense of realism about each of them that makes them more than just actors telling a story. The five monologues are interweaved together, with an overarching story in the life of Nameless, but are also individual to the speaker enabling the audience to get to know and identify with each of the characters in their own right. The writing manages to tread the fine line between being judgemental and glamourising chemsex superbly.
This is writing of the highest calibre and the production is delivered by a highly talented cast who are well up to the task. My personal favourite, both in performance and character is Matthew Hodson’s Daniel. The character resonates with me on a personal level as my reaction to the situations Daniel finds himself in would be pretty similar. Matthew himself didn’t actually look as if he is acting at any point and I could imagine that had I met him in the bar afterwards, he would have been exactly the same as he was on stage. Least liked character? I’m afraid it was Cath. Well, not so much least liked as one I felt most sorry for. Cath is a deluded individual who has not managed to move on in her life and doesn’t really understand that her friend Steve is not the same man he had been. Possibly the saddest and most frustrating scene in the story is the final part of Cath’s monologue – I can’t say why as we want to avoid spoilers – but when you see it you will understand.
The direction is light touch, and appropriate for each character, so Nameless moves a lot. He’s up and down and wanders over the stage as he tells his monologue. The Narrator is less animated in his time, sitting on the chair and talking directly the audience. I’m also going to mention the sound design by Josh Spear which works extremely well to add to the atmosphere of the scene. So when Nameless and the Narrator are outside the Vauxhall club, the music can be heard subtly in the background reminding you of the sweaty mass of hedonists just feet away from the two men.
Summing up then I found The Chemsex Monologues as superb a production the second time around as when I saw it the first time. Whether you have played around with chems or not, this play works on every level with its very human story of people caught up in a world that while alien to many at first will be fully comprehensible when the show finishes. Overall, The Chemsex Monologues is an awesome production that definitely deserves to be seen at least once.
Dawid Minnar Janine Ulfane – Photograher credit Alixandra Fazzina.
“Survival of the fittest” is a phrase that originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory as a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection. Which means that even in the most inhospitable of placers, life will find a way – even if at times, you may look and think what’s the point? For example, in South Africa, the aloe plant is considered one of the country’s most powerful, beautiful and celebratory symbols. It survives out in the wild when everything else is dried. At the end of everything, the aloe is still there. And it is this survival that is at the heart of Athol Fugard’s A Lesson From Aloes which has returned to the UK and is currently in residence at the Finborough Theatre.
Set in South Africa in 1963, where apartheid is at its height and the citizens are living in a paranoid police state. The play revolves around a middle-aged left-leaning couple – Afrikaner Piet Bezuidenhout (Dawid Minnaar) and his wif…
Since 1912, the Blackburn Musical Theatre Company has been entertaining the theatre going folks of this Lancashire town with their annual musical production. In that time, they have covered the vast array of musical theatre from their first production - Sunday - through to their latest - Hello Dolly - which I caught at the Blackburn Empire Theatre.
Dolly Gallagher Levi (Sue Chadwick) is a woman that likes to meddle, or as she puts it, arrange things. Whatever you need doing, Dolly is the person for the job. And right now, she is the talk of turn of the century New York, having brought together Mr Horace Vandergelder (Kris Wlodarczyk), the well-known half-a-millionaire and Mrs Irene Molloy (Laura Mitchell) a widowed millener. Their engagement and subsequent marriage seems pretty much sewn up though neither is marrying for love. Horace, as he tells his Chief Clerk, Cornelius Hackl (Ryan Coe), and Assistant, Barnaby Tucker (Fletcher Illingworth), is looking for someone to run his home…
Since July 2014, I've seen and reviewed 588 shows altogether. 2017 was a fairly quiet year with a total of 132 shows visited by yours truly.
So, in the best traditions of end of the year ideas, here is my list of the top 10 shows that I've seen this year. Please remember, this is my list not anybody else's and if you don't agree with the pick, well, what can I say?
1.Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Bridewell Theatre This story of friendship and hope took two drag queens and a trans woman from Sydney to Alice Springs, in a big pink bus. Along the way, the met new friends and face rampant homophobia. SEDOS brought every element of the show together beautifully, and to a standard that you would expect to see in the West End. Sold out virtually as soon as it was announced, this was the ‘must see production of the year. 2.La Cage aux Folles, New Wimbledon Theatre This is was a touring production of a show that demonstrates the importance of family and how much a parent will s…