Pros: An extremely thought-provoking and well directed show that maintains a level of intensity throughout, with a perfectly executed, harrowing ending.
Cons: The show is effective in that it iterates how hard it is to hear the stories you’re told, but this is sometimes at the expense of building relationships between the characters.
This is the first pub-theatre I have been to where you get not a complimentary drink, but a complimentary condom. I got offered one on two different occasions; lucky me! 5 Guys Chillin’ is the intense minute by minute account of a chemsex party; its characters all identify as being attracted to men, and the five leads take you through a raucous night of drugs and sexual activity. 5 Guys Chillin’ tricks you into thinking it’s all fun and freedom, but the truth is far from jolly.
Motive plays a big part in developing the characters. The play cleverly sets a level playing field for the men: it’s all fun. But as the minutes tick by, reality creeps in, and what begins as a group of friends exercising their right to freedom quickly becomes a string of ‘This One Time…’ stories that unveil more and more horrendous past events as it goes along.
The cast have an electric chemistry which elevates the show to the level of recklessness needed to achieve the impact it has on its audience; such a play relies on total trust between the actors. Each character encourages the next and there are moments of intimacy that have you hooked. The detail in Peter Darney’s direction is minute. Characters comfort one another through painful reminiscence one minute, then in the blink of an eye, the same two characters are helping each other to a more exhilarating, and dangerous, high.
The moral complexity of the play is successfully explored. The show doesn’t take a judgmental approach to chemsex parties, but it doesn’t condone them either. It is a thoughtful exploration; each character has his own motivation: the husband in an arranged marriage trying to break free from cultural constraints; the polyamorous couple trying to work out whether their lifestyle enhances their love for one another or binds them in a vicious circle; all desperately trying to find better ways of reaching a transcendent intimacy.
5 Guys Chillin’ could be edited to remove some of the anecdotes in place of more relationship building. Its strength is that it is rooted in telling a truthful account of human experience, but sometimes the launch into yet another story about the past breaks the momentum. The play demonstrates the contrary nature of sex parties and the fine line between consensual fun and a step too far quite well enough without each character needing to have so many monologues.
I won’t spoil the brilliant ending, but it really is incredibly well thought out. It expels any self-indulgence in favour of a finish worthy of the rest of the play. 5 Guys Chillin’ is worth a watch. An intimate, harrowing, but sensitively comedic view into a colourful world that offers freedom with a high level of risk.
Author: Peter Darney
Director: Peter Darney
Producer: Em Lou Productions
Booking until: 3rd June
Box Office: 0207 226 8561
Booking Link: www.kingsheadtheatre.com