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EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: 5 GUYS CHILLIN', Assembly Roxy

EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: 5 GUYS CHILLIN', Assembly RoxyEDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: 5 GUYS CHILLIN', Assembly RoxyAn alert from the gay hook-up app Grindr sounds, and a group of men decide if the person messaging is a good match. There are a range of jockstraps and harnesses to wear, and the stage is littered with porn, dildos and methamphetamine. After their highly acclaimed productions in London, Dublin, New York and Sydney, 5 Guys Chillin' returns to the Edinburgh Fringe for the second year.

Chemsex is the habit of engaging in parties that are fuelled by sexually disinhibiting drugs, such as mephedrone, GHB and crystal meth. These encounters often involve multiple people and are mostly organised online. The drugs enable people to stay awake for many days and are an encouragement for them to try things sexually that they might not have done when sober.

The five men at this chillout are all different, showing how widespread the epidemic is. Providing a variation of traits and quirks, the show does well to represent the different tribes of the gay community. Unfortunately, the characters presented to the audience are undesirable, meaning that we don't care about them - a huge problem.

The verbatim dialogue seems to have been thrown in without much thought of how it would aid the narrative. Peter Darney spent hours on Grindr interviewing men about chemsex, resulting in this verbatim-style script. However, the entire text feels like it's constantly trying to outdo itself with how shocking it can be.

The group shares stories of their past sexual encounters, each anecdote more grim than the one before, but the shock factor element becomes stale and the play requires more substance. The conversation between the men is forced, and the performances are unconvincing.

Ironically, the performers seem too chilled, resulting in a bland delivery and lacklustre energy. The audience feels uncomfortable, and it isn't because of the vulgar dialogue, but instead because the piece is awkward to watch. Darney's direction is uninspired and too prescriptive, and the overall production feels over-rehearsed.

It's disappointing to see that the marketing places emphasis on aesthetic. Half-naked men are used as an advertising tool for the poster, with the tagline "desirably sexy" giving off a certain connotation, when in fact the show itself is about something deeper: the self-damage that can underpin the chemsex sub-culture.

Of course, this is a sub-culture and not a representation of the entire gay community. But whilst it is a tiny portion, it's one that's growing. In recent months 56 Dean Street has been approached by healthcare services across many European cities requesting tips on how deal with the rise in drug-fuelled parties, and the clinic in Soho is receiving just over 100 patients a month who are battling chemsex addiction.

The piece does not condemn chemsex, nor does it celebrate it; what it does do is highlight the rising issue within the scene and explore the reasons why so many people succumb to this type of party. Unfortunately it does so in a glib way, which reduces its overall impact.

5 Guys Chillin' ran at Assembly Roxy until 27 August

Photo Credit: Em-Lou Productions

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From This Author Charlie Wilks

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