If your idea of chillin’ is sitting in the armchair with a cup of cocoa and a novel, you probably won’t feel at ease with this play. Indeed, if that is your source of relaxation, you probably don’t use the word “chillin’” anyway and perhaps shouldn’t read the rest of this review. On the other hand, if you’re more inclined to swap the cup of cocoa for a line of coke, then please enter the party and join
They manage to express the sadness, heartaches and confusion of many of the those who contributed to this work.
The night is already underway and the guys are flaunting themselves around the sofas and tables in a manner that suggests it’s been going on for some time. “Come on in and get your cock out” is not a greeting that many guests might be accustomed to, but it certainly sets the tone for the evening. If that offends, then maybe now is the time to leave, because that is just a gentle introduction to what is to follow.
5 Guys Chillin’ is a verbatim ensemble work that is both didactic and entertaining. If you don’t know the difference between a chill-out and a sex party, you will soon, and have it played out in front of you. That becomes the format for much of the evening as the guys work their way through all the major issues that confront them in a gamut of gay hedonism, some of which even they find distasteful.
There are some scenes of calm, most notably when the man from the Punjab relates his tale of the demands made upon him by society and family: how he was obliged to marry and the of the pressure to produce a family, which he did. His concerns for his wife and his double life as a married gay man are touching tales that must relate to a large number of men, and it is one of the more emotionally relatable parts of the play.
Even at a party such as this there are matters of social etiquette. With the huge increase in social media sites such as Grindr, is it acceptable to try to hook up with someone while a guest in someone’s house? Should mobile phones be turned off? Is expressing your ethnic sexual preferences on a dating site racist?
After a while, among all the frivolity and sexual mimicry, the play becomes something of a predictable checklist of issues in which every box has to be ticked. The use of pornography and voyeuristic experiences are discussed and issues surrounding unprotected sex are explored. Whether to tell another guy about your HIV or hepatitis C status, and the extent to which others can be trusted, are delved into through a numbers of stories. Are drugs ultimately destructive?
The imagery of the stories is vivid and the cast doesn’t hold back from making the most of the opportunities for simulated sex acts and outrageous campness. At times this can be overwhelming, but they also manage to express the sadness, heartaches and confusion of many of the those who contributed to this work.
5 Guys Chillin’ is the product of writer Peter Darney’s fifty hours of interviews. It is an insight into an often dark world, where for many sex has overtaken their lives; yet for others it is a world of freedom and liberation in which they can fully express themselves. For all of them, it provokes issues that need to be confronted not just by them but by society as a whole, and this play brutally brings those into the public domain.