“I’m so excited”—that iconic 1982 hit by the Pointer Sisters—is an apt intro to a show with a predominantly female audience that’s already wound up to have a good time. Certainly, there’s a strong whiff of the hen night, if only from the title—promising risqué sex-talk with a side-order of male mockery, rendered “safe” by it coming from an all-too-stereotypical, sex-obsessed gay man who references his sexual conquests numerically.
69 Shades of Gay more or less gets away with it, thanks to Lamont’s onstage presence and the script’s bravado
For its Glasgow debut, 69 Shades of Gay has had something of a west of Scotland make-over, most notably in the casting of Gary Lamont, best known (locally at least) for playing hairdresser Robbie Fraser in BBC Scotland’s soap opera River City. This alone provides plenty of audience goodwill, but Lamont’s natural connection with his audience is instant; his 20-something Aiden really feels like a friend into whose flat we’ve all just arrived for a natter.
“Funny story” is how Aiden always starts his anecdotes; certainly, they’re often laugh-out-loud material, even if the script—laden with one-liners—sails close to the rocks of misogyny when it comes to Aiden’s “best friend” Shelley, mocked for both her weight and emotional neediness. Yet Aiden’s not above bemoaning himself in similar terms; that he’s getting “older, fatter, bitter-er!” Thankfully, there are also moments when we see there’s more to him than just the hedonism. He really is looking for love—for “the One”—and it’s just a sign of the times that he’s willing to sleep with every man in Central Scotland until he succeeds.
Except, of course, he apparently has—Aiden’s anticipating being asked to move into the “posh” North Kelvinside flat of current boyfriend Marcus (who is literally Mr Wright). In preparation, Aiden is cleaning his iPhone of all the gay apps, dick pics and phone numbers of his previous 68 sexual partners. But he can’t help but reminisce. We’re only told about the more obvious disasters, but while some are just a cheap punchline, it slowly becomes clear that “number 25”—a bow-tie-wearing, base clarinet player called Chad—is at least “the One” he hasn’t got over yet.
That’s the dramatic core of the character, and the play. If the final resolution feels a tad ineffectual and undersold—more an excuse to karaoke It’s Raining Men while we all clap along—then 69 Shades of Gay more or less gets away with it, thanks to Lamont’s onstage presence and the script’s bravado in repeatedly breaking that theatrical fourth wall. (On numerous occasions, the house-lights are turned up so Lamont/Aiden can question us about our preferences in the bedroom.) This show can sometimes feel more like standup than theatre, although whether that’s just a way of papering over some less successful moments in the script, is not entirely clear.
Overall, though, 69 Shades of Gay is sharp, knowing and certainly funnier than a certain erotic novel by E L James.