Assembly George Square (Venue 17)
6-29th Aug (not 16th)
This play is about the violence and damage men do to each other. In fact there are no women in the play, the focus here is on mens’ relationships with each other. Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, instead of 1900s Vienna it’s modern-day and London.
We open with a cruising grounds near an army barracks, a straight soldier’s first and “one off” experience with a male escort (“the whore” from La Ronde), whom he punches after his new acquaintance goads him for being closeted.
We then follow the squaddie to the gym sauna where he’s become a regular and he encounters a tutor (instead of The Parlour Maid), who has a fling with a pupil and the thread of connections continues with different characters and dynamicsuntil eventually returning to complete the tale of the escort and his soldier. On our way there, we also experience a closeted actor (La Ronde’s The Actress) who wants to come out telling his friend, the journalist (The Count) who will interview him and is convincing him not to (as he himself is closeted).
There are singular moments of kindness between some of the characters but overall there are instances of emotional blackmail, lying, cheating, biphobia, homophobia, classism, corporate closeting, discrimination, objectification and a hundred other little horrors we visit upon each other. Everyone is a victim and everyone is a perpetrator.
Three actors flip between roles brilliantly. There’s a rather lovely feature whereby as two actors are on stage the third delivers a monologue that in the following scene becomes dialogue with another character. It gives a perspective on the lies we tell, perspectives we have, expectations we hold.
What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to look at queer mens’ lives and struggles, without having to sugar-coat anything. Sure, the gorgeous naked bodies might have been a benefit too (there I go objectifying! Shame! Shame!).
It’s a piece that has sparked some discussions in our house, on subjects we might not have brought up otherwise. It’s easy to dismiss this play as a collection of stereotypes within queer male culture – but perhaps more meaningful if we look for a mirror within it and question our own behaviours instead, asking how we can be better men?