Fucking Men originally appeared at The King’s Head Theatre in 2009, running for 9 months – an unusually long time in the world of fringe theatre. Now, Joe DiPietro’s sensitive, interesting piece about London’s gay community has returned home, with thoroughly engaging results.
The play focuses on the lives of 10 gay men, with wildly different ages, professions and priorities. There is the married couple, the soldier, the actor, the porn star, the student and so on. All are in different emotional places, especially in terms of their sexuality – some claim that they are just experimenting, whilst others wholeheartedly embrace their identity. All face problems or dissatisfactions of one kind or another, largely of a romantic or sexual nature. DiPietro connects this web of stories to ask much larger questions about the importance of commitment, and whether or not any relationship can be both long and happy. “That’s the great thing about being gay,” one character says “you’re not trapped by monogamy.”
The strength of DiPietro’s scriptwriting lies in his ability to be both specific and universal at the same time. Too many magazines and newspapers present gay entertainment as something separate, which isn’t meant for everyone. As a straight audience member, I found every situation on stage wonderfully true and real, acted with genuine empathy. Richard De Lisle and Jonathan McGarrity were particularly moving as the married couple, together for 12 years, growing apart and seeking passion outside their own relationship. Richard Stemp was sublime as the closeted journalist, his inability to be open with those around him stifling his ability to grieve for a dead partner (the claustrophobic, small setting of The King’s Head proved especially potent here). Whilst the play no doubt presents certain characters largely applicable to the gay world (like the gay porn star, played by Haydn Whiteside), the overarching themes of denial and honesty, love, sexual fulfillment and sense of self, remain ideas that men and women, gay or straight, can all relate to. Undoubtedly, the writing occasionally left something to be desired (at points profanities were needlessly thrown around, and the writing lacked depth and poetry), but the profundity of DiPietro’s final message – that love and security are worth more than any meaningless sexual encounter – just about saves this.
Joe DiPietro’s Fucking Men will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. The King’s Head Theatre has once again produced a gem of a show, both touching and funny, light-hearted and serious. Catch it while you can!