YesYesNoNo’s 5 Encounters On A Site Called Craigslist is about, 5 encounters on a… yes. And this is very much the tone of the show – unusual, quirky, but kind of what you might expect.
Sam Ward is the sole performer in this part comedy, part real-life storytelling, part just-a-good-time play about meeting men for sex, via Craigslist. He tells each of these encounters by using one member of the audience per story, who take on the role of that particular man. There is no pretence of reality to each scene, and the interaction becomes as much about Ward’s relationship with the audience, and also the audience themselves, as it is about being a bisexual man.
The first performer was asked to grate a carrot into a microphone while Ward narrated giving head to his first encounter. The second performer took part in Arthur Aron’s much publicised 36 sections, supposed to guarantee personal, intimate connection. And this second segment is the real focus of the show: the experience of forcing yourself into intimacy. The audience are extremely uncomfortable onstage, but Ward is very careful to ensure consent for everything he does. He asks someone to feed him grapes while revealing personal information, but he makes sure that everyone is comfortable by asking them to take off their shoes before they begin.
And this is a really interesting idea: the phenomenon of loneliness, possibly a specifically queer loneliness, and trying to get out of that, but not being sure you’re ‘doing it right’. I wish Ward had brought this idea out a little because it felt underdeveloped. ‘Subtlety’ and ‘vagueness’ are close friends, and it’s difficult to get the balance.
The end of the show felt a little predictable. Gradually the encounters become more violent but more meaningful; the light tone is lost; the audience tell Ward what they most regret; everything becomes serious. I don’t think that theatre shouldn’t have a message, but it felt nervous. By which I mean, it lacked the confidence to let the central themes of isolation and simple connections be the focus themselves. Instead, after a showcase in dynamic, exciting, fun theatre about modern relationships, we get the ‘serious bit’, which sort of undermines the previous 75 minutes.
Go and see 5 Encounters On A Site Called Craigslist if you want to feel quite uncomfortable, but not very. The show is quirky, but not so unpredictably so.
Review by Thomas Froy
Sam wants to tell you about five encounters he had on a site called Craigslist. Sam is anxious about the way he gets to know people. About the way he self-sabotages his attempts to communicate and reach out to those around him. Sam wants this to be a chance for you to get to know him.
5 Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist is a solo show performed by one person. One person who needs an audience to tell his story. It’s a show that, in exploring this one person’s self-sabotaged attempts to know those around him, considers the extent to which a group of people in a darkened room can ever get to know each other.
Desperately hilarious and achingly bleak, 5 Encounters… is an intricate and tender question mark around our attempts to encounter each other in this technologized world.
Tue 10 – Sat 14 April at 9pm
Camden People’s Theatre