King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 19th May 2018
“Their lack of comfort in certain roles is clear and some dubious accents don’t help”
Ten men weave through each other’s lives – married couples, sauna hookups, monogamists and non-monogamists, sex workers and Grindr meetups – all played by three multi-rolling actors. The interactions cross-sect society – a soldier who insists he isn’t gay and an escort, a bisexual student and his tutor, a porn star and his married lover. Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s at the time scandalous play ‘La Ronde’, Joe DiPietro sets this narrative of sexual encounters in the modern day New York gay scene. ‘F*cking Men’ is an insight into a world of casual sex, financial exchanges and relationships, as its inhabitants search for connection and intimacy.
Bleak for some and hopeful for others this is not a celebration nor a condemnation of this scene. Instead DiPietro seeks to genuinely represent multiple facets of the gay scene and the people who function within it. He succeeds to some extent. Many of the interactions are all too recognisable, but others do fall into the category of stereotype. Whilst ‘La Ronde’ specifically aimed to depict characters across the different levels of society, in the context of this adaptation, DiPietro’s film star character seems out of place and starts a transcension into celebrity that leaves the everyday experience of the gay scene behind.
Richard De Lisle, a member of the original cast and now a current cast member and Associate Director of the production, delivers the standout performance of the evening. He infects each of his characters with believability and is consistently strong as he morphs from role to role. August Ohlsson and Liam Darby are less concrete – both have their stronger characters but unfortunately this means they also have their weaker characters. Their lack of comfort in certain roles is clear and some dubious accents don’t help when creating convincing and rounded characters.
The set consists of wooden boxes that are rearranged and repurposed from scene to scene and out of which emerge costume changes and set dressing. Jack Weir’s lighting design plays a large part in transforming the space and pays close attention to detail, flooding the stage with blue when a television is turned on, for example.
This is a snapshot of a varied and often misrepresented scene, of people searching for moments of connection in a scene often characterised by fleeting hookups, secrecy and non-monogamy, and it is well supported by the strength of De Lisle’s performance and characteristics.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography courtesy of show
King’s Head Theatre until 2nd June