Ever wondered why human beings can’t just be satisfied with sex? I mean, it’s a pretty pleasurable act in itself, but you so often hear both men and women talking about wanting to spice up their sex lives and try something new and different. Sometimes these desires to experiment are just harmless fun but on other occasions they can lead to something deeper and darker such as the things discussed in The Chemsex Monologues which is on a limited return run at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington.
Our narrator (Richard Watkins) starts by telling us of a night when he met a boy in a club in Vauxhall. He remembers much of the encounter from the amount he drank to the chems he had taken as he and the boy spent the night together. We move on to meet Nameless (Denholm Spurr), a beautiful young man enjoying everything the gay scene of London has to offer him. By chance one night he runs into Saint Sebastian, one of his favourite porn stars and the two of them go to a G chillout party at Old Mother Meph’s. A night of drug fuelled lust and excitement await the two of them as they celebrate the Christmas season in style. Next up, is Cath (Charly Flyte), a young lady who has a GBF in the shape of Steve. The two of them have known each other for years and do everything together, or at least that is what Cath believes. As the ultimate – and I hate this expression – ‘fag hag’ Cath has failed to realise that Steve has moved on and is indulging in dangerous pastimes that may be putting him at risk. Daniel (Matthew Hodson) is a sexual health worker who is getting ready to celebrate Pride. The night before the big day, he is at a Vauxhall sauna giving HIV tests to those that want them and providing lube and condoms to hopefully promote safe behaviour amongst the users of the sauna. He’s happily testing away when a true adonis walks in causing Daniel’s heart to go all a flutter. The chap has just come from a club night where he had been dancing and taking chems and now felt like a bit of fun. His obvious joy with the world causes Daniel to wonder if maybe he has been missing something in his life.
The Chemsex Monologues is an amazingly well written and performed insight into a part of the gay scene that many only ever observe from the outside as they see young men, looking the worse for wear, leaving Vauxhall clubs as the sun comes up and wandering dazedly towards the tube. Each of the stories could be looked upon as a stand alone piece of work but thanks to the magic of Patrick Cash’s writing, they flow so together so that a story builds covering roughly a year in the life of the various people telling us their story. And what fascinating stories they are. Even the least interesting of the monologues was fascinating to observe and the best just held me spellbound throughout. Luke Davies direction, combined with wonderful lighting designed by Richard Desmond made the performing space seem larger than it actually is whilst keeping the intimate atmosphere essential for this type of performance.
The cast gave their all and each of them was perfect as their respective roles. Each character leapt into life and grabbed my attention forcing me to like them and empathise with things they were going through. Amongst this fantastic cast, the top of my list was Matthew Hodson who was outstanding the role of Daniel. Possibly it was because he was the character I most identified with but Matthew’s performance was so realistic and believable, it was so easy to imagine him getting into the situation he found himself him and reacting exactly as he did. A superb performance from Daniel. However, there is one character who was brought to life so well by each actor that I could really imagine him opening the door to his Stockwell flat and welcoming his ‘friends’ in. Though he never actually appears, Old Mother Meph was so well written and described by the actors that he could easily be described as the fifth member of the cast.
Down to earth and with language that whilst being earthy to say the least is never gratuitous, The Chemsex Monologues really is a superb piece of writing. Unusually for me, I bought a copy of the play text and have read it through twice since seeing the show and each time there has been more to get out of the writing. The subject matter is fascinating and although this is a play about gay men – and their fruit flies – it is something that I think everyone could find an interest in. The highly skilled cast translate the excellent writing that gives each character the opportunity to take a long hard look at themselves and the world in which they live. Never judgemental, nor moralising The Chemsex Monologues takes the audience for a walk on the wild side and leaves them at the end sat dazed at the splendid show they have just seen.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Chemsex Monologues explore the sexual, high world of the chillouts through five different stories. A nameless narrator meets a sexy boy on a Vauxhall night out, who introduces him to G’s pleasures; the poster boy for Room Service gets taken to Old Mother Meth’s place by a porn star; Fag Hag Cath is finding the chillouts have become more about the sex; Daniel is a sexual health worker who does community outreach in the saunas; and the nameless narrator meets up with his sexy boy again in different circumstances. Explicit, funny and touching, The Chemsex Monologues display a realm that is sometimes dark, but populated by very real, loveable human beings.
The Chemsex Monologues
17th to 20th August 2016