More comings and goings: F*cking Men @KingsHeadThtr
Brief encounters never seemed hotter in this latest revival of Joe DiPietro’s comedy-drama play, Fucking Men. In part due to the sexy cast and witty one liners but also because it is summer and pub theatres are hot at the best of times.
The work had its premiere in 2009 at the Kings Head and went on to have a long run and transfer to the West End. It is presented here as part of the It is running as part of the King’s Head Gay Theatre Festival.
It is loosely based on the 19th century play La Ronde, where characters are paired in scenes before and after sexual encounters in a big city. There is an escort and a soldier, the soldier and a graduate student, the graduate and a student, the student and a married guy, two married men, the married guy and a porn star, the porn star and a playwright, the playwright and an actor, the actor and a journalist and the journalist and the escort.
It’s a fascinating premise and with the potential for full frontal or partial nudity, simulated oral sex and other gay gore, it is nothing short of gay-bait.
It's a fairly sparse production (I don't think I will look at Ikea's entry-level coffee table in the same way given what it is used for here), but the troupe of rather good-looking (and fit) actors work hard to keep the intensity and focus throughout the ninety minutes of the piece. Overall the comic moments are more successful than the dramatic ones, which tend to be a bit obvious.
There is a mix of recent graduates and more recognisable faces in the large ensemble. Haydn Whiteside as the porn star and Darren Bransford as the playwright have a particularly memorable scene where their loneliness and sense of longing for something other than a casual encounter comes through. Meanwhile Jonathan Neal's performance as the scruffy action hero star, could be interpreted as any one of today's testosterone fuelled movie actors.
Given how the gay world in a city rapidly evolves, the play now feels as if it is a period piece from the mid naughties. There is no Grindr, no camming, no chemsex. Even one character works at a gay bar (a choice of profession that seems to be going the way of the chimney sweep). But it is a fascinating piece from the writer who went on to win the Tony for his book and lyrics in the musical Memphis.
In the Kings Head Theatre throughout August. It is best watched keeping one hand free so you can use the programme as a fan. It does get a bit hot in the Kings Head Theatre in the summer regardless of the subject matter. And like the cast, it is best to wear as little as possible.
Photo credit: Andreas Grieger and Christopher Tribble