F**king Men ★★★★ Waterloo East Theatre | Until June 18, 2023

F**king Men is a very funny gay take on Arthur Schnitzler's scandalous work that was first published in 1900. Schnitzler's intention was to show how sexual desire can upend both class distinctions and many other social taboos, and Joe DiPietro does a fine job of translating the subversive and amusing work into a gay context. Here however, the intention seems to be to show how random sexual encounters, however brief, can be a means of connection beyond sexual satisfaction. At various points characters invoke E.M. Forster's famous dictum "only connect" but the sequential hookups in the story don't really display much personal connection. Other than sexually, the characters seem rather insular and emotionally disconnected. The exception, perhaps, is the story of the two men who initiate the circle of "connection" and whose reappearance concludes it. This is an encounter that begins as purely transactional but which seems to end in an honest and comprehensive relationship. The narrative consists of ten scenes comprised of ten different characters, and the cast of F**king Men have their jobs cut out for them as they play a variety of roles in the series of linked sexual encounters. Each of them does an absolutely astounding job of creating and differentiating the various personae they are called upon to play, and they succeed in bringing an authenticity to each of the individuals. We were particularly taken by the timid tutor and the marginal playwright created by Derek Mitchell. In both cases, it would have been so easy to fall into parody, but Mitchell avoids that trap and creates wonderfully real but eccentric characterisations. Stanton Plummer-Cambridge does an equally fine job as the conflicted soldier and tortured actor who finally decides to come out. Alex Britt as the voracious college student is completely credible, and Charlie Condou does a fine turn as the uneasy partner in an open relationship. Cara Evans' set is clever, but there are already some sight line issues in this small theatre and sometimes the set doesn't address them. While F**king Men might not fully succeed in convincing us that its random sexual encounters actually involve much connection, there's lots of humour and some outstanding performances here. A first rate cast create unforgettable characters plus some touching and hilarious moments in this perceptive, no holds barred, look at gay life!

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Darren Bell.

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