F**king Men at Waterloo East Theatre
Being gay can be incredibly lonely. Many members of the community are reluctant to allow themselves to fall in love – this could be down to any number of things, from trauma to internal homophobia and the fact that even today queer people are met with prejudice. There is still the distorted idea that loving or being attracted to someone of the same sex is wrong and unnatural, and that hangs over people like an encroaching raincloud. It impinges on attitudes towards love and adds an armour that protects but also protracts a willingness to fully embrace others. The inherent loneliness that results, even within established relationships, is explored in Joe DiPietro’s cult classic, a contemporary take on Arthur Schnitzler’s infamous La Ronde. Make no mistake, it is not a depressing dissection of gay culture but rather an open and honest portrayal. Humour permeates throughout this punchy, pithy play that sheds a light on gay men who unashamedly seek sex as a means of connection.
Interconnected, ten scenes concentrate on the most private of moments between different men as they pursue sex to fulfil deeper needs. Some are in the closet, whereas others fully embrace their sexuality. With characters establishing themselves before transferring to the next sequence, the audience can invest in these people without the structure ever feeling formulaic or gimmicky. Over 90 minutes we are invited into their orbits as we are presented with snapshots of their lives.
The intimate Waterloo East Theatre marries well with the material, inviting us to be flies on the wall. Alex Lewer employs effective lighting design with the actors spotlighted or in silhouette at appropriate moments. Cara Evans offers a simple set with screen doors opening and closing on the action, and director Steven Kunis ensures a healthy pace is sustained. Lee Crowley’s intimacy direction allows for authenticity in a production that requires its cast to offer openly real and raw portrayals.
The committed ensemble excel, each offering accurate and relatable characters: Alex Britt, who has become something of a regular in LGBTQ+ fringe theatre, excels in his various roles; Derek Mitchell commands a great deal of laughter, while Coronation Street’s Charlie Condou presents a beautifully nuanced and convincing performance. Stanton Plummer-Cambridge completes the group, again bringing detailed characterisation to proceedings. We feel we know these men, which is testament not only to the actors’ talents but to the sharp script.
With updated revisions, F**king Men feels fresh. References to hook-up apps and PrEP (a drug used to reduce the risk of HIV) afford the play relevance. While it doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table or leave its audience with lingering thoughts or ideas, the work asserts itself as an engaging and enjoyable addition to the LGBTQ+ canon. It guarantees an entertaining evening abundant with genuine and believable character-driven drama that is deserving of its cult-classic status. Astutely observational, this is a fun and enlightening evening.
F**king Men is at Waterloo East Theatre from 21st April until 18th June 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.