Tuesday, July 23

F**king Men – Waterloo East

When Tony Award-winning playwright Joe DiPietro first started writing his all-male adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, he didn’t think anyone would be interested in producing it. So, he gave it what he considered to be an ‘un-producible title’: F**king Men.

As the title of this review gives away, the play not only went on to be produced, but it was a runaway success. Debuting in London over 15 years ago, F**king Men became a fringe classic, and DiPietro’s updated version is back for a six-week run at Waterloo East Theatre until 26th May.

Drawing back the curtains on the interconnecting sexual encounters between ten different men, F**king Men offers the audience a glimpse into the lives of modern gay men navigating sex, love, and monogamy in a world that still too often discriminates on the basis of gender and sexuality.

From a closeted action star to long-term spouses dipping their toes in the murky waters of open relationships, DiPietro’s dialogue glistens with heart and humour as the characters tussle with age-old debates on the intricacies of sex and love in the gay community, as well as more modern complexities like online porn and hookup apps.

Photo – Michaela Walshe

In this production, directed by Steve Kunis, the aforementioned ten men are played by four actors: Joe Bishop, Rory Connolly, Jason Eddy, and David Michaels, with each performer taking on two or three different roles.

Having a small rotating cast playing ten different characters in intertwining scenes certainly poses a unique dramaturgical challenge, but this production of F**king Men pulls it off sensationally, thanks to Kunis’s impeccable direction and the characterisation skills of the four actors.

The multi-roling was so sharp, so full-bodied, that at points I couldn’t believe I was seeing the same actor in two (or, in the cases of Rory Connolly and Jason Eddy, three) such richly defined separate roles.

Connolly delivers some of the most emotional moments with gorgeous honesty and vulnerability, but Kunis’s careful direction ensures every actor gets ample time to shine. Each individual character and arc is compelling, and the momentum of the production never stalls throughout.

F**king Men is a play largely about sex, but it’s more about the connections forged through sex, and the truths that are revealed — or left unsaid — in the moments that lie between. But as for the sex, it’s choreographed superbly by Movement & Intimacy Director Lee Crowley. Highlighting the complexities of sexual encounters in different contexts, the sex in the show is equal parts sensual and raw, exposing each character’s vulnerabilities and desires.

Cara Evans’s striking yet fuss-free set, consisting of a wall of glass panels (which can be fogged up or used as doorways) and a large round bed, is utilised exquisitely, with every inch of the space being used purposefully and thoughtfully.

Meanwhile, Julian Starr’s sound design is thrillingly evocative, with the pulsating music perfectly complimenting Lighting Designer Alex Lewer’s use of bold neon lights and shades of light and darkness.

Every tantalising element of F**king Men is masterfully brought together by Kunis to create a powerful dramatic comedy that speaks profoundly to the experiences of gay men living in 2024. Delivering big laughs with an even bigger heart, F**king Men is a tender and compelling play that truly comes alive in this delectable production.

Playing until 26th May, https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/f-men2024

Reviewer: Olivia Cox

Reviewed: 17th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.