“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer. “ This E.M. Forster phrase from Howard’s End (no pun intended) is the mantra which underscores Fucking Men, now playing at the New Theatre as their contribution to the Mardi Gras Festival.
Joe Dipietro‘s Fucking Men is an adaptation of La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler which scrutinized the sexual morals and class ideology of its day through a series of sexual encounters between pairs of characters across all levels of society. Dipietro’s script pushes the social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class in the gay community and how, despite the immediate gratification that comes from casual sexual encounters, everyone is looking to connect on some sort of deeper level. Looking for love or understanding or acceptance.
La Ronde is actually the name of a dance, and the play opens with five couples swirling about an angled circular platform in a tango, then a waltz (neatly choreographed by Harriet Bridges-Webb) . The structure of play is reflected in the set design and the movement; patterns are circles intersecting, separating and intersecting again. This is a well thought through actualisation of theme by Mark Nagle (director and set designer) whose inspired idea was to create an 11th role – that of an MC. Nagle has enlisted the very real talents of Matthew Raven, whose music and songs, informed by the text, link the scenes in a moving way. His final number encapsulates the agony of being young, gay and yearning to be true to oneself and accepted at large.
Pools of light (David Marshall-Martin design) offer spaces into which the action moves, and at the same time, isolates; serving to highlight the lonely moments, the disconnect which plagues the characters not because they are gay, but because they are human. On opening night, some of the actors struggled a little to find these pools – a small wrinkle which no doubt will be quickly ironed out in the next few performances.
This is very much an ensemble effort with each actor clearly differentiating their character and exploring their own particular pain in a nuanced way. In particular, Jackson Blair-West as The Playwright was authentic and charming although in a way it is unfair to single out any one performance and I have no doubt that every audience member will have their own.
It would be easy to throw this play on stage and treat the script superficially but this production avoids that. Different sorts of desires, not just the physical, underscore every scene and there are also moments of humour and wry recognition. It appears that gay men, too, will say that in spite of the other one achieving an early climax and leaving them dissatisfied that this is “fine’. That they “had a good time anyway.” So it does beg the question – why do we all lie about sex?
Because, of course, we are desperate to connect.
Kate Stratford – Theatre Now & On The Town
Editor Disclosure note: Director Mark Nagle is an occasional reviewer for Theatre Now and On The Town
6 Feb – 10 March 2018
Previews (6 & 7 February) 7:30pm
Thursday – Saturday 7:30pm
Saturday 4 & 10 March 2pm only
Venue: New Theatre
Theatre Company: New Theatre
AN AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE, PRESENTED AS PART OF THE SYDNEY GAY & LESBIAN MARDI GRAS
“Why does any guy have sex with strangers? Cause it feels fan-fuckin’-tastic. That’s it. End of story.”
A sharp, provocative and very funny play dealing with a chain of hook-ups amongst a group of gay men.
American writer Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) has loosely adapted La Ronde, Arthur Schnitzler’s notorious 19th century satire about sexual adventuring, and turned it into a revealing panorama of contemporary gay life.
Take ten guys: The Escort, The Soldier, The Tutor, The Uni Student, The Married Guy (and his partner), The Porn Star, The Playwright, The Actor and The Journalist, put them into a series of one-on-one encounters, and the result is a very sexy, confronting and thought-provoking comedy of gay sexual manners.
Like good sex, each moment leaves you wanting more. But underneath the hot man-on-man action is an ironic and truthful look at the conflict many gay men experience between the desire for monogamous love and the thrill of sexual freedom.
“Brings Grindr to life” British Theatre Guide
★★★★ The Times
Note: this production contains nudity, strong language and sexual references. Suitable for 18+
Director & Set Designer Mark G. Nagle
Lighting Designer David Marshall-Martin
Costume Designer Krystal Dee Russell
Sound Designer Anthea Pelino
Assistant Director Neil Khare
MC/MD Matthew Raven
Choreographer Debbie Smith
Set Design Assistants Tom Bannerman,
David Marshall-Martin, Rodger Wishart
Production/Stage Manager Saskia van t’ Hoff
Production Assistant Sophie Giese
Michael Brindley, Stanley Browning,
John Michael Burdon, Anthony Finch,
Ray Mainsbridge, Tom Marwick, Nick Pes,
Anton Smilek, Pete Walters
Concessions, Groups (6+) $30
Mardi Gras Members $25
New Theatre Members $22
Previews, Thrifty Thursdays $20