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Camden Fringe: C.O.C.S. Chronicles – Review

C.O.C.S. ChroniclesIf perchance you have picked up and read any gay lifestyle magazines, then you will be aware that the younger generation are currently taking a lot of risks when it comes to sex. STDs are on the rise and there is a very cavalier attitude – completely alien to my generation – on the risks of picking up HIV. Adding fuel to the potential fire is the abundance of drugs on the scene and the, it sometimes seems, growing belief that the only good sex is Chem Sex. This attitude forms the backdrop to Emmett Anthony Friel’s work “C.O.C.S Chronicles” being performed as part of the Camden Fringe season at the Camden People’s Theatre.

The play follows the lives of people involved in the Chem Sex scene and their attempts – in some cases – to remove the chemicals from their sex lives entirely aided by veteran therapist George (Declan Cooke). So we are introduced to Tommy (Ryan Blackburn) a young artist in a pretty ruinous relationship with Antoine (Pablo Mendina). Their sex life is great, but only when drugs are added to the mix. Indeed, as Tommy freely admits, without drugs, he’s not even sure he wants to be with Antoine, who seems to have some sort of hold over Tommy. We also meet sex worker Harry (Pablo Escudero), whose life is really messed up but who continues to carry on with doing what he does, and letting himself get into situations – as he does when he hooks up with Antoine – that, if he were thinking straight he would run a mile from. And finally, there is transexual hooker Sandy (Julius Reuben) – probably Tommy’s best friend – who, despite every obstacle in her way may have met the eponymous Mr Right in the shape of Norman (Bartley Burke) and is trying to clean her act up. Each of these characters is dealing with their own issues and addictions in their own way and the audience travel with them on part of their journey as they seek for that elusive something that makes life perfect.

I am going to admit, I had some trouble with “C.O.C.S Chronicles”. Whilst it is a very well written piece and extremely well-acted, I had difficulty in identifying with any of the characters. Maybe I have just led too sheltered a life, but the very graphic opening scene involving drug fuelled sex really set me wondering if I had been missing something. Whilst I understood and completely agree with the message the play was putting out, at times I found the writing slightly preachy.

Putting that aside and looking at the play as a piece of theatre, I was very impressed with what I saw. Declan Cooke’s portrayal of George was particularly moving, especially the point where he was informed about the death of a client and you could really see the pain and anguish of a man that had lost faith in what he was doing. This was a wonderful scene with Julius Reuben’s Sandy giving a sterling performance as she tried to reassure George of his worth, pointing out the positive impact his work had had on so many people’s lives over the years. A really superb piece by both actors. Indeed the quality of the acting throughout was really high with all of the cast members obviously being committed to the stories they were telling. Emmett Anthony Friel’s direction was good and made excellent use of the theatrical space – with some great musical interludes between scenes – and the use of video projection worked really well, particularly in the churchyard scene.

Overall then, “C.O.C.S Chronicles” was a really powerful, and intense, theatrical presentation with an important message for a generation that has been led to believe they are invincible. A well written, well delivered play that is a wonderful part of the Camden Festival.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Part of Camden Fringe 2015
Presented by Fate Productions
A ‘Queer’ play, soiled with insights, desire, surprise & sexuality; ‘C.O.C.S’ unravels the LGBT+’s controversial and often sexualised Chem-Sex epidemic.
When juggling with the effects of drugs, there is no such thing as chronological ordering, as each of our characters finds out each in their own way.
May contain flying objects and dangly bits.
@COCSPLAY | www.fateproductions.co.uk

Monday 10th August – Fri 14 August, 2015
Time: 7pm

wednesday 12th August 2015


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