Thanks to the folks at whatsonstage.com, I got free tickets to F**king Men at the King’s Head theatre in Islington, a place I have been to several times and to be honest, usually find quite overpriced. So free tickets meant that I had no problem in trotting along to this play by Joe DiPietro, despite my reservations about both fringe theatre and gay theatre.
Firstly, whilst I do recognise that there is much good work being done in fringe theatres across London, I was quite badly burned on several occasions last year by some terrible experiences, and the main problem that I have is that their tickets are not sufficiently cheap for me to be forgiving. When somewhere like the National Theatre regularly has £10 tickets available, I find asking for £15 or £20 somewhat hard to stomach, especially when one is not assured of the quality.
But to the matter at hand, Fucking Men or rather F**king Men. This comedy chronicles a chain of hook-ups between a group of men, including a college student, a soldier, a long-suffering couple, and a big Hollywood actor. By focusing on the build-up to, and then the fall-out from the encounters, people who are looking for literal demonstrations of the title will be disappointed, but this is definitely to the play’s credit. That’s not to say that there isn’t some pandering to the pink pound with an abundance of pecs and abs on show especially in the first few vignettes, as shown by the photo (included purely for your benefit!)
Stereotypes are always hard to resist in gay theatre, whether it is using them or trying to subvert them, and DiPietro is no exception here. The college kid describes himself as bisexual, the married couple are both playing away separately, yet the porn star is actually a supremely sensitive guy. In the end though, the speed with which the piece rips through each encounter means that no-one really outstays their welcome and the writing is for the most part quite sharp and funny and delivered well by all the actors.
Connecting all the encounters is the conflict between monogamous love versus sexual freedom and exploration and whilst this question is raised constantly, no real answers are given by the play. Thinking about it, there is also a curious tension in the overall message of the play which is that underlying every sexual encounter is the overwhelming desire for love, yet in putting together a play that consists solely of sexual encounters, DiPietro seems to make no allowance for the idea that some men just enjoy the thrill of casual anonymous sex, and are happy with that.
So whilst I congratulate the production on becoming one of the longest running off-West-End plays, I don’t know if I could justify recommending this at £15 a head, especially given the relative lack of comfort of the seats at the King’s Head, and given its rather niche appeal.