I’ve long been fascinated by Schnitzler’s La Ronde, a play that almost never saw the light of day, such was the outcry when it was published. But, that was over 100 years ago, and now with apps such as Tinder or Grindr, hook-up’s and one-night stands are hardly a taboo. As the title suggests, Joe DiPietro’s F*cking Men, replaces all of the characters of La Ronde, and by default the sexual liaisons, with males.
Both the original, and this adaptation follow the same pattern; ten scenes, each depicting two people in a sexual encounter, with one character from each scene progressing in to the next. The gender may have changed for some characters, but the whore is still a whore and the student a student, though the little miss becomes a porn star, and the Count a TV journalist.
With only three actors portraying all the roles, simple math tells us that some pairings are repeated, but the different characters appear distinct enough so as not to distract the audience. Richard De Lisle achieves this to the greatest effect, his arrogant and boorish ‘Husband’ in complete contrast to his insecure and chattering playwright.
August Ohlsson makes good use of accents to differentiate between his characters. His German porn star the most endearing, balancing sensitivity and frustration. Liam Darby is excellent in all his reincarnations, particularly so in his portrayal of the ‘Husband’ (which would have been Wife in the original).
This production of F*cking Men has, a bit like it’s characters, done the rounds, having been performed in various London locations as well as Edinburgh Fringe and Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. It feels like director Mark Barford has pushed the boundaries a bit further this time, allowing his cast the room to breathe, and develop the characters further.
It’s easy to get a few laughs from the promiscuous nature of the ‘gay scene’ but pairing it with a tender examination of love and compassion takes real skill, something this production achieves beautifully. F*cking Men will certainly appeal to a particular audience, but it has a broader message about relationships, and the way we treat our significant others, no matter how we may have hooked-up with them.