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  • Xi Ye

Review - Jock Night

Seven Dials Playhouse

Playing until: 11th November 2023

Writer and Director: Adam Zane

Set Designer: Dick Longdin

Lighting Designer: David Clare

Producer: Mike Lee

Review {AD - PR Invite}

Based on the epic night life of Manchester’s gay village, we follow the adventures of five gay men. Ben (David Paisley), Kam (Sam Goodchild) and Russell (Matthew Gent) frequent parties in the gay village, usually ending with a drug-fuelled orgy with the men they meet. During the course of the play, we are introduced to AJ (Levi Payne) and Simon (George Hughes), both of whom become attracted to Ben. AJ was inexperienced when first introduced and still finding his feet in the LGBTQIA+ ecosystem. Simon, on the other hand, is well known in the community, given his recurrences in porn.

The main story centres around Ben, who is in his 40s, and his confusion as he comes out of a long-term relationship and re-examines what it is that he wants. While he enjoys the one-night stands, he also desires something more meaningful. Simon waltzes into Ben, Kam and Russell’s lives, initially as a nonchalant porn performer, and later quits his career to become an actor/bartender and Ben’s boyfriend. The audience is provided with glimpses of Simon’s struggles as he adapts to this new way of life, ultimately impacting on his relationship with Ben. Kam and Russell are Ben’s sex buddies, who deny they have feelings for each other, and both of whom treasure their friendship with Ben. The story touches upon a number of topics including love, sex, drug abuse and infidelity, all building toward the fact that even among what appears to be a small group of people where their interests are aligned, there are still significant differences among their desires. Furthermore, the guys gradually realise that they are trapped in a reality that they either can’t or don’t want to escape from. Despite the more serious undertone of the story, this production is fast paced, dotted with innuendos and sex, and plenty of references to Coronation Street, the fact that the younger men (AJ and Simon) don’t get the references is a recurring source of comedy in this show.

Despite the many themes covered, it is unfortunate that so many are only introduced superficially. Kam’s character is filled with potential, with his HIV+ and undetectable status, friendship with Ben and how Simon’s actions affect this, and his reluctance to engage in a meaningful conversation with Russell. However, Adam Zane’s script gives little more than a peek into this character, even when the group’s lives were turned upside down because of a particular event involving Kam toward the end of the play. Given Kam’s reluctance to disclose his background and Simon’s downward spiral in his first attempt to stay away from drugs, it would have been helpful to understand the other aspects of the rest of the group’s lives, what they are like in contrast, and how these impact on Kam and Simon’s self-confidence. The time skip toward the end also doesn’t do Simon’s character justice, with him leaving the stage high on drugs and coming back almost immediately as a renewed person having gone through rehab.

The set is well designed by Dick Longdin, using what appears to be a super king size bed in the centre of the stage and the majority of the actions take place on it or the couch nearby. The size and sturdiness are both needed as it seems this is frequently used for group sex. Interestingly, the flat in which the entire story is played out belongs to Ben and all of the guys seem to use this space for hook ups. This supports the description of Ben being the “daddy” of the group.

While fully appreciating that this will not apply to everybody in the LGBTQIA+ community, many of the elements will resonate with a lot of people, particularly the parties and non-conformity to heterosexual monogamy relationships. Ironically, it is precisely this stereotyping that is trapping the characters in their respective roles.

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