Adam Spreadbury-Maher, Artistic Director of the King’s Head Theatre, is the man responsible for the explosion of Queer Theatre to hit London in 2016. His season of plays both celebrate and interrogate gay culture. Offering a meaningful forum in which to re-examine the challenges faced by this often marginalised community, these works debate gay lifestyle and question the impact of sexual orientation.
One of these plays is F*cking Men, written by Joe DiPietro, which is back by popular demand and is now playing at The Vaults, Waterloo. An all-male three hander, the play is a series of inter-connecting vignettes that lay bare the inharmonious wants, insecurities and attachment issues of several gay men. Featuring heavily is the catechization of promiscuity and monogamy that, despite significant shifts in equality, still beleaguers many gay men, their relationships and well-being.
The Vaults is a splendid space to see in a transfer of this work. The walk through graffiti sprayed tunnels towards the venue – that has an Eastern Bloc rawness – yields an authentic setting for the gritty and teasing nature of the play: both combine to thrust audiences into a pit of realness. There’s no room for niceties here, so don’t expect any.
Performances are generally strong and self-assured. With moments of nudity and graphic sexual content, there’s plenty to tantalize the senses. Putting three dapper men on stage – often naked and simulating sexual acts – can be a welcomed distraction even for the most discerning theatre-goer, but when you see past this and get over the initial excitement, the message of the work will resonate, not only with members of the gay community. The cast does a laudable job at communicating the pain, bewilderment and complexity of the characters.
Despite its acclaimed success, there’s a few snags that hold the work back. The dialogue at times lacks credibility and some of the humour – despite being well received – is misplaced and out of context for the situation. This offers up some cheap laughs but at the expense of a truthful portrayal of the moment, which is sometimes replaced by camp innuendo. Similarly, in a bid to differentiate the multi-rolling, some of the characterisations lack a sense of believability and feel overly contrived. Nonetheless, this doesn’t detract from the overall charisma of the piece and the competent work of the actors.
Interesting work in that it confronts head-on the challenges of modern relationships. In a throw-away culture – where for some the grass is often greener – perhaps life-long monogamy is idealistic. When love knocks, do we recognise it? Can we hold onto it, or are we too busy thrill-seeking to try? Worth watching; a piece of theatre that faces you with your own fears and has the ability to polarise opinion.
Review by Darren Luke Mawdsley
Playing until Sunday 4th December 2016 http://www.thevaults.london/fcking-men 020 7183 5942 – Tickets £25 / £35