by Travis Nesbitt
Undoubtedly, the most dreary part of any Saturday night is that moment when the party is over. The lights come up, that paradise of piercing music and endless possibilities becomes a wasteland for spilled drinks and dust bunnies, and you grab your dignity or the nearest person to you, and inevitably stumble home. In 5 Guys Chillin, now playing at the Kings Theatre in Islington, author and director Peter Darney accurately and irreverently, shines a light on five Londoners who tragically don’t hear the music fade.
Written from over 50 hours of narratives from guys found through Grindr, Scruff, and social media sources, the play is about 5 guys attending a ‘Chill’, East London’s newest gay social scene, a sort of post-clubbing, pre-sex party gathering that is fundamentally created by the existence of gay social apps. The play takes a somewhat harsh look at gay attitudes toward dating, sex, and relationships in London, illustrating that this culture of instant gratification is a recipe for disaster, and that the perception of a gay relationship is evolving.
The play requires you to be familiar with a lot of East London gay vocabulary, (which was not really a problem in this case since most of the audience consisted of gay Londoners) so you might want to hit the pub on the way in to get a crash course. I personally was not familiar with terms ‘chill’, ’tina’, or ‘slamming”, but regardless the author does a great job of using his research to tell the story accurately and unconventionally. The concept is simple, 5 guy show up to ‘chill’, have sex, then ‘chill’, meanwhile we learn about decisions and the life events leading them to their current situation.
Some performances were better than others (including one mediocre American accent), but overall the actors seemed to be very comfortable with the piece, each other, and the sexual nature of it, which in turn made us as the audience at ease and able to enter the world of the play. There was only one split second of full nudity, which some might view as a missed opportunity, but I valued it as appropriately upholding the artistic value of this sexually charged piece.
What I love most about most fringe theatre is how immersive it is. The theatre is in a tiny box with maybe 50 seats in the back of a pub. You can’t help but feel like your being absorbed into the world of the play. ‘5 guys chillin’ does a spectacular job of taking advantage of this environment, and by the finale you feel as though you been left with a piece of performance art. In fact, without giving away too much, the ‘chill’ is still in action as the house lights come up, and you have to tip toe out of the theatre like exiting a bad one-night stand. You literally don’t know when the party is over.