fringe: the chemsex monologues

adelaide fringe: the chemsex monologues
I didn't really know exactly what to expect from Dragonflies Theatre's production of The Chemsex Monologues. It sounded interesting, and while it was definitely gay themed, it's a world I (thankfully) know nothing about . So I took a chance.

That chance paid off, and I got one of the most amazing pieces of theatre I've seen this Fringe.

I laughed, I welled up, I got mad both at and for the characters and most of all I felt for these four people as they tell us about the way their lives slide across each other and intersect the world of gay sex on drugs.

As the name suggests, the show is four (well five technically) monologues... the narrator (Richard Watkins) begins and ends the show, Nameless (​Damien Killeen, pictured above) is the boy everybody wants, Cath (Remy Moynes) is a co-dependant fag hag... and then there's nerdy sexual health worker Daniel (Richard Unwin).

Of these, it was Watkins' second performance that I found the most moving... as he takes us through his desire to help Nameless to his frustration with him, from loving him to hurting him and back again, there was something in his eyes that really grounded him in the moment and brought me to the brink of tears.

But there were moments in each of the monologues that touched me... Killeen's Nameless being so desperate for a connection and relaxing into the embrace of a new love, Moynes' Cath realising how far away her best friend has gone from her and Unwin's Daniel being so completely out of his depth but yet still holding out his hand to someone in need... they're all beautifully performed and each monologue is amazingly written.

In fact, the text of the play by Patrick Cash is so beautiful that I bought myself a copy of it at the end of the performance, and then had the cast sign it like the giant nerd that I am.

It's also at times genuinely funny... more so Cath and Daniel's stories, but there are moments of humour throughout that made me laugh.

I also loved that in weaving these stories in and out of each other, there's opportunities for each of the actors to either impersonate the other characters, or to give their own interpretation of the never-seen character of Mother Meth, the American host of the chillouts. The moments when they take on another character felt to me very much like showing that how others view us and how we view ourselves are two completely different things.

In a lot of ways it reminded me of the show I saw five years ago, Shadows of Angels... four stories, each one picking up the thread of the previous one, and amazingly strong performances throughout.

And weirdly, stepping outside the world of the play for a second, when Daniel asks "why do so many gay men want to be outside themselves?", I instantly thought of an article I read earlier this week about gay men and loneliness as it deals with some of the same questions.

It's a subject that needs to be discussed, and a piece as beautifully crafted as this is a good place to start.

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