Joe DiPietro's F*cking Men is a series of vignettes that showcase the modern day gay man in action. But are they an accurate depiction? Theatre Editor Daniel Perks finds out.

This is a story about sex. But it’s also about connection, or the seeming lack thereof, in the gay male sphere. One-click fucks and closeted hook-ups are still all the rage in Joe DiPietro’s F*cking Men. Because that’s still a large portion of the scene. Being gay means being less of a man; being fem is less attractive that being masc; monogamy is the plaything of the heteronormative paradigm – F*cking Men highlights them all. But with such vacuous, one-dimensional characters, any nuance that may be hidden deep in the script is completely lost in its execution.

Fcking Men King's Head Theatre

Richard De Lisle (image courtesy of Nicholas Brittain)

The King’s Head Theatre has played host to the show many times, so this reincarnation will inevitably see some new faces and old favourites. The latter here is in the form of Richard De Lisle, who has been involved in each version of F*cking Men since its first outing in 2015. De Lisle is instantly distinguishable in his assured performance – he jumps straight into the series of characters with nuance and ease, all the comfort of putting on a well-worn pair of slippers. As Assistant Director, he also understands the pace that each scene should follow, the break and the pause that reveal subtext and hidden personality traits. The other two actors take longer to warm up. One of them never really does.

Fcking Men King's Head Theatre

Laim Darby (image courtesy of Nicholas Brittain)

Much of the issue with F*cking Men is that, while it accurately paints an angle of modern gay male life, it’s a very narrow viewpoint. And it’s another story about the queer male – as if theatre isn’t saturated with that to the detriment of other queer stories already. But perhaps it’s all just a competition for visibility – Liam Darby’s characters certainly seem to think so. My long-term partner is fucking other guys, so I will too; open relationships are all the rage. Except Darby carries around more guilt than his other half and it weighs him down, both in character and in performance. Certain vignettes of his are well executed, others are less impactful in their delivery. August Ohlsson has even fewer scenes that hit the mark.

Fcking Men King's Head Theatre

August Ohlsson (image courtesy of Nicholas Brittain)

Mark Barford’s direction does nothing to help lift this production out of the quagmire either. It cycles round without meaning, incorporating gratuitous nudity to no real purpose. Voiceovers and pull quotes attempt to frame, or highlight, poignant points during a scene change. But all they do is pull focus, disconnect us from the natural passage between one encounter and another. But the issue with F*cking Men is ultimately found in both the script and its vision – for all it tells the story of a modern gay age, it’s antiquated and lacks layering.

 

 

★★☆☆☆

F*cking Men runs at the King’s Head Theatre until 2 June 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.