Author Pat Cash, and Dragonflies Theatre, present an enthralling series of interlinking monologues exploring the joys and the jeopardies of the worlds of chemsex.
We’ve long admired Cash’s knack for producing penetrating portraits of diverse and colourful denizens of our community, but with this latest work he has surpassed himself. The Chemsex Monologues is an extraordinary tapestry of pleasure and pain, woven together with wit and weight by a master wordsmith. The setup is simplicity itself: four actors take to the stage one at a time and deliver a monologue – no set, no props, no interaction. But so skilful is the world-building undertaken by both author and performers, that one comes away with the impression of having witnessed a fully-realised production with a cast of hundreds.
Topping and tailing this queer quintet is Richard Watkins as an unnamed gay guy who first tells us of the night that he met a young man in Vauxhall, and latterly updates us with a more recent report that brings things full circle. The way in which themes and plots are threaded throughout the individual pieces make for an extremely satisfying whole that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Watkins is an engaging and eloquent guide who leads us gently into the first of several ‘chill-out’ scenarios.
Denholm Spurr is transfixing as the young man, referred to throughout as Nameless, effortlessly switching between this part and that of the porn star that he is sleeping with. We’ve never seen one person play both participants in a sex scene so successfully… Spurr is mercurial and majestic.
As the narrative moves on we switch to the perspective of Fag Hag Cath – the only female attending a number of chemsex parties. Initially played for laughs, Charly Flyte imbues Cath with a layered vulnerability that seriously impresses. She is also completely hilarious.
Finally, Matthew Hodson is Daniel the sexual health worker who decides that it’s time to attend his first chill-out. Hodson gives us an exceptional performance as a fish-out-of-water, and is technically brilliant in his portrayal of a very specific type of camp gay man. The laughs come thick and fast, until, eventually, there’s a kicker of a twist and a final line that slays.
All of these pieces knit together beautifully to create an honest, fascinating, and non-judgemental journey that shines a torch on a shadow realm that consumes as well as comforts. The story of the nameless boy is a specific, heartbreaking, one, but in his anonymity he’s also here to represent the thousands who find themselves lost and broken in a world that doesn’t always have their best interests at heart.
The Chemsex Monologues is essential viewing – tickets are very limited, so do whatever you can to get your hands on one. Thoroughly recommended.
GT gives The Chemsex Monologues: 5/5
The Chemsex Monologues runs at the King’s Head Theatre until 21st May. For full details, see kingsheadtheatrepub.co.uk