REVIEW: FIVE GUYS CHILLIN’ (Kings Head Theatre) ★★★★


FIVE GUYS CHILLIN’ at the Kings Head theatre, conjures up images of dancing, 1960’s singers in fluorescent silk suits, however when a bare bottom is presented to the audience within 30 seconds of the action beginning, it becomes evidently clear that it certainly isn’t that type of a show.

This verbatim ode to Grindr (written and directed by Peter Darney) tells the bare naked truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the dark world of chem-sex and the men who like to “play”. With over fifty hours of anonymous interviews pasted together to create the script there is a brazen authenticity to the piece that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

‘J’ (Stuart Birmingham) is preset in a dingy living room listening to music and sniffing lines from porn DVD cases as the audience enters. Coffee tables laden with a cocktail of drugs and sex toys forebode the action and what ensues is a “chill”, as four other guys arrive to have fun, take drugs and various other things that I shall leave to your imagination.

The play is around 70 minutes straight through and rarely falters in energy. In one routine evening we see the exhilarating highs and the desolating lows of the gay chem-sex scene through a group of complete strangers meeting up to chill out, get naked, sniff a few lines and have sex.

The cast truly give themselves over to the piece; taking on such towering topics as fear to reveal ones HIV status, drug abuse and taking pride in ones sexuality. The play and the entire team are inordinately fearless in their approach as they smash these mammoths one by one with brutal honesty and total integrity.

Elliot Hadley was sensational as ‘R’. With a drug fuelled grin etched over his face, he presented a truly damaged and painfully real individual who made you laugh one minute and left a lump in your throat the next.

Although it is lovely to see chiseled bodies and hairless chests I did feel there was scope for some more diverse physical types in the cast.

Darneys’ decision to stage the show in a thrust formation resulted in an extremely naturalistic feel. It felt as though ‘Big Brother’ had gotten sensationally out of hand and we were simply sitting back and watching this savagely realistic search for the ultimate gratification. It was hypnotic, and although it was uncomfortable I found myself unable to tear my eyes away. I did also feel that there were moments when the action faltered somewhat and I’m not sure if this was due to the script or the way it was being performed, but it had to be resuscitated at least three times.

Did I like the play? No. But I certainly enjoyed it. An audacious, shameless and gutsy torch shining on a world that although is brimming in sex, drugs and sensuality is, under the surface, a lonely and bitter sphere.

Whether your jaw’s on the floor or tears are in your eyes you will definitely take something away form this daring play.

Reviewed by Jimmy Richards

FIVE GUYS CHILLIN’ plays at the Kings Head Theatre until 5 November 2016