The Edinburgh Fringe may have a porn addiction. A surreptitious browse through this year’s programme returns a fair few porn-themed shows: Irvine Welsh’s Porno, Loveless, Sex-i-ety. And I wanted to love I Birbanti’s contribution, Let’s Try Gay. Trust me, I tried!
Fumbles its potential somewhere under the bedsheets
The play’s description teases us with parallels between the stage and the bedroom, be that performance anxiety or the dream of 'making it'. But the promise of Alessandro Onorato’s award-winning script never truly materialises. We are left with a play that could be both so camp and so clever, but instead fumbles its potential somewhere under the bedsheets.
The premise is eye-catching, to say the least. Two art students decide they want to make it big. Their means to fame? Starring in a gay adult movie. But there is one slight issue: Jack and Phil are both, as unconvincing as their performances may be, straight guys. It’s fertile terrain to explore sexuality, male friendship, and what it means to 'perform', but we’re slow to get to this central premise, and when we do, the poor comedic timing means it just doesn’t land.
There are some chuckles when the two begin to declaim their seduction in deep, Shakespearean tones. When they decide to watch My Big Fat Greek Gang Bang, accompanied by the comically plodding notes of Greek folk music, we’re primed for a sequence on porn parodies… but it never comes! Porn is exaggerated fantasy, yet these two actors never bring that frenzied energy to the stage. Are they nervous, or do they not know their lines?
Lurking behind Onorato’s script is some good stuff. He toys with tantalising riffs on ageing, family rejection, and the desire to go back in time and try 'different roles'. But these flirtations go nowhere, and instead we are offered some timid flexing and a bizarre spanking sequence which, in its lethargy, fails even as slapstick. Not tonight, dear, I have a headache…
It’s a shame, because porn’s popularity at the Fringe goes to the heart of performance and theatre. Jack and Phil talk about “getting ready to perform tonight” and speculate about the need for “performance enhancers,” but even as performers themselves, they seem blissfully unaware of the comedic or metatheatrical potential of these lines. In this case, Viagra won’t help. More confidence and a clearer focus on performance and sexuality are needed to get this brilliant premise going, but Let’s Try Gay doesn’t quite do the job.