F*cking Men ~ The Vaults Theatre ~ 29.11.2016

You might be forgiven for thinking at first glance that this re-imagining of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 play La Ronde as a series of scenes portraying 21st Century gay relationships is playing on and reinforcing some of the harmful stereotypes which still persist around homosexuality. That’s certainly some of the noise I had heard prior to seeing the show, but entirely unfounded when you watch the piece as a whole.

If you take any scene out of context, yes, you might get that impression. But the show exists as a series of short scenes between various couples, each scene connected to the previous one, in a way that becomes obvious fairly early on.

So what you see in this fast-paced show is ten singular scenes which are fairly straightforward and two-dimensional, but when the the scene regenerates into the next skit, the overlapping character becomes instantly more developed as we see the dynamics change. Every scene drops a reveal which recasts the previous scene in a different light. Not necessarily tipping it on its head, but giving enough to understand more about the motives of the characters in the previous scene.

Of course, the title and the nudity onstage will always give people a reason to cry out “controversial” – let’s remember that the original was considered scandalous upon publication, so no harm in following traditions there. But in reality the concept has been really well adapted and made relevant for a modern audience.

The cast of three –  Richard De Lisle, Harper James and Haydn Whiteside – effortlessly switch between roles throughout the show. It’s no mean feat to try and convey a depth of character in two scenes, but they handle that superbly across the scene changes.

It’s not a ground-breaking show – I think mainly because the central themes aren’t a shocking as 100 years ago – but it is a show which, across the series of skits, showcases a broad range of experiences, and delivers some witty barbs along the way. It’s an enjoyable and well put-together 90 min experience, and I look forward to seeing the next projects for this team.

 

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