Review - F**King Men - Waterloo East Theatre, London

F**King Men - Waterloo East Theatre, London

WARNING – Some adult content

The title of this play may lead one to think that what is on offer here is 90 minutes of gay guys doing what, according to the stereotype, gay guys do – sleeping around – and, to a certain extent, it is. There are many scenes of various men having sex together, but this play is so much more than its title.

On an almost bare stage there is an oval podium which, mostly, is used as a bed. Set diagonally across the stage are several Perspex panels which, with the clever use of lighting, can be completely transparent or totally opaque. With the stage effectively cut in half it is very easy to swiftly, and seamlessly, move from one scene to the next.

As the show begins Alex Britt, Charlie Condou, Derek Mitchell and Stanton Plumber-Cambridge introduce us to the first four of 10 different characters they play. Two of the characters are in a long term “open” relationship where they have agreed that they can “fool around” with other guys, as long as it is never talked about. They leave the stage, and our attention turns to the other two guys.

At just 18 years old, John has discovered that he is, quite literally, sitting on an asset that can earn him a lot of money. He “services” the local Army base and tonight he meets a first timer. Worried that he might soon die on active duty, the soldier decides that it’s time to satisfy his curiosity and try “forbidden fruit” and, on realising how good it feels, he sets off on a hedonistic quest to have his 5-a-day!!

In the very next scene, he is “hooking up” with a guy in a sauna and so the sexual merry-go-round begins, with one character from each encounter leading us into the next scene, and another spontaneously wild, lustful, raw and passionate sexual pairing.

Joe DiPietro has adapted, and updated, the piece so well and incorporated a great deal of real laugh-out-loud moments that serve well to break up the endless circle of sexual encounters and the moments where difficult subjects like lack of fidelity, homophobic violence and lying about your HIV status are tackled head on.

The question I keep asking, when each new character appears is – Are these stereotypes? - because I can recognise people who I have known in my life in just about all of them. The “whore” who knows that his good looks can make him money, for now. The closeted gays who, for reasons of career, or reputation, stay that way. The overly theatrical gays who are usually living the drama they wish they could write. Stereotypes, or mirrors of a gay world in which we just want to “connect”? What better way to instantly connect than sexually?

This play is not for the faint-hearted. There is a lot of simulated oral and anal sex throughout the 90-minute piece, the language is very ripe at times and there’s a fair amount of nudity in there as well but, as mentioned before, this production is so much more than that. The play takes us on a journey where we see both love and sex, and witness how so many people who have one, wish they could have the other.

The rapturous applause as the piece finishes is not only for the four supremely talented actors on stage but also for an amazing creative team who have worked so hard to make a piece of theatre that takes a different, and maybe more honest, look at gay life in the 21st century.

This show was reviewed on the 25th April 2023.  F**King Men runs at the Waterloo East Theatre until the 18th June 2023.  Tickets available here: F-Men | waterlooeast

***** stars

Paul Scott

Photo credit: Darren Bell