Edinburgh Fringe 2016
This is reality without frills and with no sugar coating. It is a gorgeous production.
This is one of the most important plays this reviewer has seen in decades. It shows the penalties we all pay for homophobia and judgmental rejection of a huge segment of society. We meet five men, all seeking a sense of belonging and acceptance. They are chilling at a party where they have met for a night of sex enhanced by drugs. As we watch them sniff cocaine and inject a variety of drugs, we listen to their experiences. On the surface, these are the very people scorned by the establishment, over-sexed, sybaritic, with no sense of responsibility to themselves or to others. Yet, to understand this play, and what author Peter Darney is trying to show us, you need to listen to the desperate sadness underlying the apparent thrill seeking we see on stage. Each man is using drugs and sex as a mean to feel alive in a society that has shut him out of the mainstream. Three of them have HIV and they take social drugs to escape the reality that they can only survive on medicines that will eventually destroy them. The five characters in the play are men you meet on the street. You deal with them in offices, retail establishments, as executives, businessmen, bankers, professionals….all people who seem to be leading conventional heterosexual lives.
J is the host of the party who stages chill out parties that can last for days. He is lovely and welcoming to the other four but never lets anyone into his bedroom. That is his private “place.” M is an American living in London and he is often the one who casts the searing light of reality that penetrates the drug infused fog the others live in. “All I see is a lot of pain,” he says. “It is ridiculous; just ridiculous.”
B and R are partners and both work in the sex industry. PJ is a married man. His wife is pregnant with their second child. He tells the others about his wife. “Obviously you don’t want to marry this poor girl and bring her back here and fuck up her whole life. ….and one year later I married her. We’ve been married for seven years….at first we had fun…”…..And so it goes..men determined to use enhanced sex as a substitute for belonging and self esteem. “I don’t know a single relationship that has lasted for more than four years since meth as been introduced,” says one. And M says, “After they are drugged they look like they are on special needs. It’s not sexy. “
Another says, “Its not an addiction just because its there…for us, sex is more like a pastime.”
As you listen to the talk, watch these men embrace, and reassure one another you realize how fruitless all this chatter really is and how empty each man feels…always seeking a sense of self that simply is not there.
The HIV rate in London is soaring and parties just like what we see on this stage are responsible for most of this new epidemic. This play is a revelation in how we have alienated a huge part of our own society Every person in the play is a human being aching for recognition and validity, drugging himself in a vain effort to feel a thrill that he mistakes for a life force. It is heartbreaking to realize that society has shut these men out so completely that it is only through drugs and sex that they can feel a part of the world they live in.
This is a play every human being should see to understand the desperate need each of us have to feel we belong. The crime is that as a society we have deprived a huge swath of our population with this basic human need. 5 Guys Chillin’ is far more than an entertainment; it is a revelation.