'Dream Man' by James Carroll Pickett

A word of warning: if an hour of explicit homosexual phone sex is the sort of thing that sends you running to complain to Mary Whitehouse, then look away now. Dream Man is a brash, balls-out confrontation of the realities of long-distance sexual gratification, set in a time period where real-life intimacy was haunted by the fear of AIDS, still known in some of the media as the 'gay plague'. James Carroll Pickett's script largely avoids directly addressing 80s issues of discrimination, shame and fear, but it's not a straightforward celebration either – as operator Christopher (a well-sustained performance of a demanding role by Jimmy Shaw) continues his monologue, switching from a fantasy-fulfilling phone personality to a painful personal revelation, subtle changing of lighting and blocking make him look increasingly haggard, sweaty and tired. The audience are repeatedly involved, pointed out by torchlight, given business cards, and finally directly addressed: 'call me'. The raw material of the show is so powerfully open and honest that I almost wished the interaction had been more invasive, more of a direct challenge: not that Christopher is in any sense an easy person to ignore. While the only person on-stage at any time, his three phone tricks are created in their absence with clear, separate personalities, though it's harder to know exactly what's going on with old flame Billy. The script at times approaches performance poetry, which Shaw's staccato delivery suits, but in the moments of biography the imagery feels a little overdone, all burning eagles and angels in petrol station toilets; it's at its best during the phone sex itself, accompanied by suitably pornographic music and a refreshing sense of its own inherent ridiculousness. Overall, a triumph in minimal surroundings and a poignant elevation of a sordid career. Probably don't bring your nan.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

The Blurb

'Dream Man' is an aria for the brokenhearted, oozing with sexuality, not about sex as much as it is about how we negotiate sex to find out who it is we truly are.