Running Time: 70 mins approx.
F*cking Men has had quite a history. As one of the many plays inspired by the Schnitzler classic La Ronde, it has appeared in several locations since the original version opened in 2009. This version had a full cast of ten, and appeared at both the King’s Head Theatre and London’s Arts Theatre. Since then it has been stripped down to a cast of three, and after appearing at the King’s Head, Edinburgh Fringe and Dublin’s Gay Theatre Festival, is now appearing at Waterloo Vaults.
The structure of the play is one of the things that is most successful – though to be fair, this is something that Schnitzler initiated in 1897, and it has been used multiple times since then, including David Hare’s adaptation The Blue Room and other plays such as Sleeping Around (Ravenhill, Morgan, et al). There is something intensely pleasing about returning to one of the original characters in a cyclical nature. The plot contains scenes of varying natures, all on sexual exploits of gay men, which tend to involve a lot of nudity and do veer on the repetitive (and endless amounts of undressing and redressing of the characters)
This leaves the cast with the complex challenge of playing the varying characters that populate this very sex-driven play. This is with very varying degrees of success – there are many times where the characterisations are fairly similar to one another, or they verge on stereotype. In particular, there is a writer that feels exceptionally dated and really belongs in a play from the 80’s, not a modern piece. It’s not that men like this don’t exist, however it verged on caricature and led to uneasy watching.
The staging of the piece also was less than successful. I really encourage minimalism in some fringe venues – it means the audience focusses on the play and actors, and encourages smooth and effective scene changes. However, the scene changes in F*cking Men leave a lot to be desired – the play feels disjointed because of excessively long scene changes with blackouts and party music used to mask the actors moving around the three boxes that make up the set. This is not done with speed or efficacy, it feels under-rehearsed and ill-thought out.
Summary: A play with an interesting ideas and neat structure that fails to live up to what it could be due to poor scene transitions and some strange acting choices. ***