Trouble With Men – Nick Myles’ triptych of short plays, which have recently been performed in Brighton and at the King’s Head Theatre, London – are very different from each other. The one thing they have in common is they focus on contemporary gay relationships. Some are more light-hearted than others, but all are about choices and identity.
Three Men and Some Baggage – the first play of the evening, takes a very stereotypical view of the LGBT community, the sorts of relationships that purportedly exist and the way it looks at itself. Ray (Reece Matthews) arrives home early from holiday to see his flatmate Fin (Freddie Wintrip) getting ready for his ‘date’. Walker (William McGeough) – the object of Fin’s affections – is ‘considerably older’ than Fin and Ray who are in the bloom of youth.
While Fin likes the idea of having an older, experienced man, Ray takes the commonly-held view of ‘Never trust anyone over 30’. Of course, there are other factors that cloud Ray’s judgement of Walker. Firstly, Ray’s has unrequited feelings for Fin. However, as there have always been ‘overlaps’ in Fin’s relationships, there has never been an occasion when Finn is ‘single’ or a right time for Ray to speak up. The other factor that affect’s Ray’s judgement is Walker’s bisexuality, a sexual preference certain people have always found ‘problematic’ – the crux being are they really gay or not? As a ‘farce’, Three Men is very funny, but the character of Walker brings an edge to the proceedings – challenging the camp stereotype, as well as being demonstrably aggressive…
For my money the best play of three plays, Details is a monologue unlike any you’re like to have seen before. Performed by McGeough, it focuses on Peter – a gay salesman who has struck up a rapport with someone on a dating site. While their banter proves they have chemistry, the time comes when they eventually have to meet up in person. However, the date comes clean about a secret that threatens to end things before they’ve even begun – the secret being they weren’t born a man and yet to have the final operation… Peter’s obviously shocked, but he really likes ‘him’ and even after meeting up in person, decides he would like to take things further. ‘Getting down to business’, everything is fine at first, but ‘resistance’ does occur later – not from Peter but from his ‘date’…
The attention to detail that Myles gives regarding Peter’s life and proclivities really makes the play – enlightening the audience about his thoughts, feelings and choices during the spur of the moment. While Peter admits the confession does have overtures to The Crying Game, the real surprise is ‘how’ and ‘why’ this monologue is taking place at all – something that puts the events of the play into perspective. Whie Details is very different in format and style to Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam, it has a similar fearlessness in broaching the topic of sexual politics within the transgender community and whether it is possible to desire someone independently of one’s ‘natural’ sexual tastes.
The final play London-Damascus continues to explore the parameters of relationships. However, as the play title suggests, it doesn’t take place in one location. Adam (Freddie Wintrip) and Ahmed (Reece Matthews) enjoy an online relationship. The more confident and experienced of the two, Adam is open and forthcoming. For Ahmed, just being gay where he is is dangerous and as a consequence, more reticent with the disclosure of things intitially. However, he has every right to be careful astime will attest… In some ways London-Damascus has a straightforward premise, but by contrasting two gay men from very different countries, it hammers home how homosexuality isn’t universally accepted. The decriminalisation of homosexuality in ‘progressive’ Britain didn’t take place until 1967, so little wonder in non-secular regions that there is still antagonism towards it. While London-Damascus looks at ‘the bigger picture’, it also acknowledges the pitfalls of online relationships – not knowing for certain whether the other party is genuine and thinking the worst when the other has ‘vanished’.
Myles’ selection of plays covers a range of topics, but the one unifying thread is his ability to gauge the audience’s interest – regardless of their sexuality – and show the emotional core of his characters.
© Michael Davis 2017
Trouble With Men ran at King’s Head Theatre from 15th-20th August 2017.