REVIEW: THE CHEMSEX MONOLOGUES (Kings Head Theatre) ★★★★
The Chemsex Monologues was written by Patrick Cash after he had been researching the idea of Chemsex for an article he was writing and found there was very much just one side people were looking at it. Unsafe sex amongst gay men, whilst they are high on drugs. But what about the other side of things. Why do these men do this, what is it they desire, dream and fear that is causing them to want to forget about their real lives outside of the haze of drugs and debauchery.
The play centres around a chill-out session at Old Mother Meth’s house, full of pornography, shared needles and non-consensual sex sessions. The boys may not want to have sex, or they might have passed out from the drugs and found themselves raped when they came to but that’s just how they pay for the drugs, they don’t see it as a problem.
A boy (nameless) meets a porn star on the streets and ends up in a club with him. Before long they are back at a chill-out, drinking liquid ecstasy. Before long one overdoes and ends up in an ambulance.
Fag Hag Cath turns up at Old Mother Meth’s house for her annual Anti-Valentines dinner with her best friend, only to find him high on drugs. Despite having a baby at home she dabbles in the drugs for old time sake but soon realises this is not the life she wants to return to.
Daniel, the sexual health worker spends his nights wandering around London’s gay saunas, giving free HIV tests to anyone who will take one and handing out condoms and lubricant like it’s the Evening Standard. Curious about the idea of ChemSex, he goes along to a chill-out party but soon realises it is too unhygienic for him to ever consider ever partaking in. Matthew Hodson is brilliantly camp in this role, excited at the thought of trying something new but terrified of what might happen if he does.
Having seen The Vagina Monologues many times over the years, I was curious to see what a gay, drug and sex themed version would be like. Although the story is shockingly explicit and graphic in its dialogue, it never comes across as going too far. The writing is brilliantly sensitive to not make this show a soft porn play and the way the actors have been directed makes it feel extremely realistic, like four people standing up and bearing their souls a Chemsex Anonymous.
Richard Watkins as the narrator is very good. Introducing us to the characters and then wrapping the play up so as to feel we have come full circle. Denholm Spurr is the attractive young blonde character with a six pack and wearing nothing but a tiny pair of shorts. Charly Flyte plays Fag Hag Cath in a Stacey Solomon esq manner. She keeps it amusing whilst also having a more serious side.
The Chemsex Monologues is hard hitting and tough to watch but it is unfortunately a part of what is happening in the world today and something we really need to not bury our head in the sand and try to ignore.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
THE CHEMSEX MONOLOGUES is playing at the Kings Head Theatre until 20 August 2016