Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Unapologetically graphic, mischievous tale of inducting innocent Gordon into the gay chem sex party scene by expert sluts Cumpig and Manpussy. An important, loving insight into a part of the gay community often seen as dangerous, deviant, and diseased, but here we are all rooting for them.
Don’t be fooled by the hilarious antics in James Ley’s raunchy, drug-filled tale of making a cum dump pig out of boring Gordon from Edinburgh. As funny as it is, this is no lightweight drama. This is an important as well as hugely entertaining piece of theatre. Important because it is saying, about promiscuous gay men, love us for who we really are, not for the cute, sanitised, harmless hetero-aping stereotypes who don’t talk about having copious amounts of sex and drugs. It is targeted at a gay-friendly, gay-curious audience, as evidenced by half the printed programme giving an extensive glossary of gay slang terms about various sex, drug and cruising activities. The almost capacity audience on the night I saw it (great going for Thursday of week 1 of the Fringe!) seemed only about 25% gay men (as an old poof my gaydar is pretty damn good!), and 50:50 male:female.
One of the main climaxes of the play is given away in the subtitle Ode to Joy (How Gordon Got To Go To The Nasty Pig Party), so you already know that Gordon is on a journey from non-nasty non-piggery into the realms of rampantly promiscuous gay group sex parties. Now there’s a tale worth telling and seeing !
As someone who is part of the European gay cruising scene, and has been to many parties like those depicted in Ode to Joy, although the play was hugely enjoyable, there were no new discoveries for me, despite welcoming such truthful portrayal of gay lives with a wider audience. But that is no criticism. Whether or not the creators intended it, people like me are not the target audience who will be most impacted by this very welcome and transforming drama. Allies and potential allies of the queer community get insights into the lives and friendships of promiscuous party-going gay men, and see they are nothing to fear or revile. It portrays promiscuous gay lives as a part of the rich tapestry of British life, as cherished, accepted, mocked and celebrated as any other of the diverse communities that make up our towns and cities. Audiences would be hard pressed not to love and wish well for all three characters, even though they are whoring around Europe, taking cocktails of drugs, and collecting bodily fluids as quickly as STIs. The three gay sluts, Gordon, Manpussy/Tom and Cumpig/Marcus are played respectively by Brian Evans, Marc MacKinnon and Sean Connor with superb accuracy and virtuosity.
It’s a pretty rich achievement for a piece of theatre : to help get a reviled community loved for who they really are, envied for their brazen living life to the full and the incredible honesty and mutual support of their friends. Many straights express jealousy of some gay lifestyles – and here the fun, the sex and the escapades will create more envy, despite portrayal of some of the agonies and consequences, although these are lightly touched in, late in the drama, with fleeting mentions of infections caught and harm reduction strategies finally being tackled.
There are issues with the sound. All actors use mics and the speakers are high up and shrill, making them all sound distant. This, plus a constant and loud techno music bed meant that for the first 20 minutes many lines are almost inaudible, and there is little sound or tone contrast across the piece. We even get techno music during the sequences about Gordon’s Government job. Welcome variety of tone and intimate connection with the audience would come from having breaks in the music, and dropping its volume and the mics. It is a 60 seat theatre – actors don’t need mics.
But none of this dimmed the enthusiasm and affection of Ode to Joy’s audience for the characters who showed many of them what makes this part of the gay community tick, and feel a bond and a resonance with them. A very welcome, hugely entertaining, quality drama for the British theatre (which is still much too heteronormative).