5 Guys Chilling
15 August 2016
Chem sex, (sex involving the use of drugs), is a worrying scene, connected to soaring HIV rates among gay men, especially in London.
Created from over 50 hours of interviews from men on Grindr and other apps, the play is a demonstration of how difficult it is to create verbatim theatre. The cast constantly speak in just that- interviews. The transcripts have been allocated to characters, but the conversational tone is forced and unconvincing.
For much of the play the characters scream and call each other bitch and relate ever increasing tales of sexual exploits. The problem is, they are so dislikeable that we don’t go on an emotional journey with them. There’s a better play struggling to get out- the Asian guy who is in an arranged marriage- but he is even silenced in the final scene.
On the plus side, the cast are very good, and the damaging side of their partying is played very well. I liked the confrontational nature of the script, and it does not glamorise the scene. It’s bleakness makes me worry for young gay men.
Yet, in a play that discusses HIV, addiction, unsafe sex, loneliness and other issues, the dramatic stakes are not raised high enough. In an effort to neither condone or condemn their behaviour, the consequences are not fully played out and it feels as empty as their partying.