Writer/ Director: Peter Darney
Reviewer: Daniel Perks
Social media has transformed the relationship game once again – from blind dates to dating websites, it is now apps such as Tinder or Happn that market themselves as the latest tools to help the busy singleton find love. None has altered a single cultural scene so much as Grindr, the world’s largest gay social network app that has become more of a means to organise hook-ups, sex parties and casual one night stands thaN find a soul mate for the more openly promiscuous of the sexual orientations.
5 Guys Chillin’ is a commentary piece, a culmination of 50+ hours of interviews with people in the gay community that routinely use this (and other) apps to arrange their sexual lives. Peter Darney writes and directs a theatrical version of a panel show, the audience playing host to five men who all have something to say about sex parties, chill outs and the cocktail of drugs that they take to help them relax along the way.
WhilE it is J (Gareth Kennerley) that is holding the chill-out this time (which is markedly different to a sex party), none of the guests are strangers to this scene. R (Elliott Hadley) and B (Michael Matovski) seem to be seasoned professionals, the two wilder members of a polyamorous relationship which has all the expected issues of a heterosexual, monogamous couple. M (Haydn Whiteside) is an American in London, a slightly more vanilla version of the host himself and PJ (Cael King) is the repressed ethnic minority who is stretching his wings behind closed doors. Each actor has a distinct personality, all joined together by lust and a desire to escape into fantasy.
Each character has their own trigger, a topic discussed amid the drugs and Caligula-style atmosphere that seems to hit a nerve. while these aren’t explicitly referred to they do provoke the most intense reaction from those that are divulging the reasons behind them. Whether it be PJ’s cultural and religious pressures as a gay, married Pakistani man, or B’s trigger as being previously used as a sex slave (seemingly voluntarily), each character has a believably visceral response when conversation innocuously moves onto their pressure point. Darney’s writing and direction doesn’t build up to these moments and as such they seem fluid, as if a natural part of the discussion that is taking place.
Despite the setback with the venue that rendered Sherry Coenen’s lighting design defunct, 5 Guys Chillin’ is a performance that involves the audience right from the start. This isn’t a play with a defined storyline as such, more of an erotic episode of The Big Questions in which each character is able to share their differing views on the pitfalls of today’s ‘live fast, die young’ queer lifestyle.
The beauty in this play is that it doesn’t pull any punches, it doesn’t plaster over any cracks and it doesn’t dress up the lifestyle as something glamorous. The audience are plunged into the middle of this society’s reality and as such are able to look past the sex toys and drugs and see the people underneath. As the drugs wear off and the come-down hits, each craves some semblance of normality but are afraid of breaking down their walls and becoming truly vulnerable. Each actor shows their soul to the world on stage and are rewarded with a powerful production because of it.
Runs until 1 June 2016 |Image: Contributed