F*cking Men at the Kings Head Theatre
The undeniably eye-catching title of Joe Dipetrio’s play hides more beneath the surface than the words suggest. F*cking Men is indeed about sexual encounters between men, but in its simple depiction of the moments preceding and succeeding sex, it reveals a lot about the human urge to connect, whether through or beyond physical means. The play returns to the stage with a new director, Mark Barford, and uses a daisy-chain structure borrowed directly from the 19th century play La Ronde. Arthur Schnitzler’s original plot follows one couple at a time, as ten sexual rendezvous unfold between men and women of different social backgrounds. Each new scene retains one character from the previous scene and introduces a new character, who in turn features in the following section.
F*cking Men adopts the same frame, but with stories of gay characters. These range from realistic representations to stereotypes, such as the escort, the soldier who denies his homosexuality, the promiscuous student, the gym buddies and so on. At first the episodes seem disconnected, but as the play progresses a bigger picture begins to form and it becomes clear that there is a shift in perspective. The first few sexual interactions are presented in a cynical light: there is a considerable amount of mistrust, fear of judgement and a tendency to reject or mask feelings. Then, almost imperceptibly, there sprouts a hint of tenderness that grows into attachment. Characters begin to display some emotion, confess a need for non-sexual intimacy and a desire to maintain contact with the other. After a scene depicting a married couple, the subsequent encounters gradually shed the emotional elements until the play comes full circle and returns to no-strings-attached sex, but this time with an unexpected revelation.
The point conveyed is that casual sex may seem amoral and vacuous, as one character points out, but that it is ultimately just another way of wanting to experience an intimate connection, albeit briefly. Aside from the cleverly woven sentimental thread, the strongest element is the fragmented structure of the play, which creates a fast tempo and does not allow for slumps in the narrative. The constant turnover of characters invites the audience to ponder the general message of the play rather than get absorbed by a single character and his fate. The dialogue is snappy and often humorous, and the actors do an excellent job of bringing realistic scenarios to life. As the theatre’s set-up has the audience huddled around a small stage, the sense of intimacy is heightened.
A serious play with a cheeky front, F*cking Men is a strong and honest exploration of sex and the universal instinct to seek something tangible within fleeting moments of pleasure.
Photo: Christopher Tribble
F*cking Men is on at The King’s Head Theatre from 5th December until 9th January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.