Paul T Davies reviews Sex/Crime a new play Alexis Gregory now playing at Soho Theatre.
22 January 2020
Alexis Gregory’s powerfully comic play takes place in an attic playroom, a gay space for men to carry out their fantasies within a sexual script, all pre-arranged, with terms and conditions excepted to be signed. Two men, labelled just A and B, meet to recreate the killings of a famous gay serial killer, for their own pleasure and for the right price. Except B wants to be taken to death, and here Gregory explores media constructions and the glamorisation of violence.
They play does many other things; it looks at internalised homophobia, of taking on the horrendous hatred directed towards gay men. I was impressed that the play doesn’t shy away from what is termed the “darker” side of gay male sex, S and M and power exchange, which makes a refreshing difference from the young, buffed, hairless bodies and almost sanitised gay sexuality we see more frequently. It’s also highly satirical and funny, hitting its targets effectively as Gregory rips into the Queer scene, the media and the public’s fascination with murder. No one ever calls a straight murderer a “heterosexual serial killer”, so why do homosexual ones have their sexuality highlighted?
Jonny Woo is powerfully enigmatic as A, the man in charge, the master, or is he? He has scripted the scenarios perfectly; everything set up, as society falls apart outside, his punishment room is a “safe space”. Gregory himself plays B, a performance of high camp, as stated by him as the playwright, and the violence is highly stylised, the production making effective use of blackouts. Both men work well together, and the play reminded me, style-wise, of some of Berkoff’s work, particularly Decadence. I was also reminded of one of the first American AIDS plays, Robert Chesley’s Night Sweat, in which men with AIDS book their exits in a club designed to give them the deaths they desire. I felt it would have been interesting to have lowered the high camp a little, to bring out the nuances of the script a bit more, the production plays very much on one note. Ravenhill’s classic, Shopping and Fucking, is another influence, and the naturalism in that script brings out themes of commercialism and power more effectively.
That said, this is a memorable hour in the theatre, and there is a good twist that makes a strong impression. Both performers are sassy, sexy and enigmatic, and it’s another strong LGBTQ production at the Soho Theatre.