Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Dramaturgy Chillin' : Peter Darney @ Edfringe 2017

2 – 27 August 2017, Assembly Roxy, 21.50

Following highly acclaimed, sell-out performances in Dublin, New York, Sydney and Edinburgh, 5 Guys Chillin’ returns to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Woven together using the real words of real guys found on Grindr, 5 Guys Chillin’ is a state-of-the-nation play addressing one of the most important public health crises of the twenty-first century, frankly discussing chemsex in taut, intimate and unflinching verbatim drama.

5 Guys Chillin’ is addressing this urgent crisis, and has thus been performed all over the world to great acclaim. Writer/director Peter Darney says: “I hope this play shows some of the good times, some of the bad times, and encourages you think about what is right for you. It’s your choice, no one else’s. But let’s all talk, look out for each other, and make our decisions with free will, from an informed place.”

With more and more gay men falling into addiction, and more incidents of chemsex-related crime, discussing this issue has never been more urgent – and it isn’t going away. David Stuart of 56 Dean Street, a health clinic in Soho, still sees approximately 3000+ drug cases per month, and that number is not decreasing. He says “Gay communities around the world are in the throes of a profound cultural shift; some of this is manifesting as poor sexual wellbeing, and chemsex. We need kind hearts and cool heads to address it and I believe theatre, at its very best, can help us to do this. I’m so pleased that Peter Darney has had the courage and compassion to address these issues through the prism of true stories; this is verbatim theatre. This is community.”

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I was inspired to write my play when a friend of mine got heavily involved in the chemsex scene. What started as Saturday nights became Friday to Sunday, then Thursday to Monday, until eventually his house became a 24/7 sex party. 

He stopped sleeping, just G’d out and came too and carried on. He lost his job, got into massive debt, and had a lot of dark times. He would also tell me hilarious stories of his exploits. I realised that this was happening everywhere, that you could find a chill pretty much anywhere in central London with Grindr within 500 meters. And I was fascinated that this secret world existed, behind closed doors, and that no-one was talking about it. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Yes, very much so! To me the theatre is a place where we should be confronted with different ideas, shown different perspectives. Its so easy for us all to walk around in a bubble- we see people with similar views to the way we ourselves think and feel and not be challenged to look outside of our “norm”. With 5 Guys Chillin’, we have also held numerous post show discussions, and the play has been very effective as being a starting point for discussion on issues that face the community. It makes people think, argue, debate- which is so important. I am all for everyones right to free choice in what they do- but it has to be from an informed place. Live performance can really help with that.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I think it is something that has always been in me. I used to make shows at may Primary School and perform them in assembly, and just didn’t ever really stop. In the past few years, with my work in Verbatim theatre, adaption and writing, I have felt the most creatively fulfilled I ever have, as I have moved from being a director to a theatre maker. I love collaboration, and how all the different elements of live performance can add another layer to an initial idea or stimulus.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
This was a really different approach to theatre making for me. I would go onto Grindr and other MSM apps and find people who seemed to be at Chemsex parties, and then contact them a few days later to see if they would talk to me about their experiences. I would wait a few days as I didn’t want people to tell me things when they were high that they might not wish to disclose sober. After collating over 50 hours of interviews, I took the 4 interviews that interested me the most (one was with a couple) and then started to edit them together to try to make dialogue, adding in bits from other interviews to expand on certain points. It was a really painstaking process, but ultimately, when you see this show, you are hearing the real words from real people giving a snapshot of a highly secretive scene.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Yes and No! I like to make work that makes you think outside the box, that challenges preconceived ideas and judgements, that hopefully might make you think about people with more compassion. I think it fits into that very well. But Verbatim theatre, and creating work in this way was a very different approach in creating a script for me.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope the audience will experience the highs and lows of a modern chemsex party. They will get an insight into the lives of the people that do it, what takes them there, what they get from it and what it costs them.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We have tried to create an immersive edge to the experience. So- without giving too much away there is a pre-show and a post-show. Our cast are often on the social media apps used to create the show too, so the performance can reach out from the theatre and online. We also use synthetic drugs, continual underscoring and anything else we can to make the experience of the party seem as real as possible. 

WINNER “Doric Wilson Award for Intercultural Dialogue” (2016)
WINNER “Micheál MacLiammóir Award for Best Male Performance” (2016)
WINNER “LGBTQ Brighton Fringe Award” (2016)
Title           5 Guys Chillin’
Writer/Director       Peter Darney
Lighting Designer     Sherry Coenen
Producer        King’s Head Theatre and Em-Lou Productions

Performance Dates     2 – 27 August
2-4 August £10
5, 6, 10, 14, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24 August £13 (£11)
7, 8, 11, 12, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27 August £15 (£13)
Running Time          60 mins
Venue           Assembly Roxy, Roxburgh Place
Ticket Price         
Box Office I 0131 623 3030

The King's Head Theatre is London's first and foremost pub theatre, led by Artistic Director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher. New writing, revivals, musicals, opera, cabaret and queer work sit side by side in an unashamedly eclectic programme of work. Thanks to an in-house agreement with Equity, we're leading the way when it comes to ethical employment on the fringe whilst our resident trainee director's scheme continues to provide comprehensive, vocational training to the rising stars of tomorrow. With high profile co-productions, national touring and transfers to and from the biggest arts festivals in the world, we're certainly not slowing down!

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