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Thursday, May 30, 2024

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REVIEW ★★★★★ By Ifan Llewelyn

If you’re an avid theatre-goer living in London, you’re probably no stranger to a chemsex play. It’s a social feature of queer life that has drawn many a theatre maker – proving to be fruitful ground due to the high stakes of the practice and being a revealing symptom of liberated queer life.

Chemsex – just in case you’ve been living under a rock – is using drugs during sex to enhance the experience. This usually takes place in a group setting, usually between gay men and usually with three specific drugs: Mephedrone, GHB and Methamphetamine.

The latest to hit London’s West End is Jock Night. Here we meet five characters who regularly partake in group chemsex sessions, and are walked through a year of the toll it takes on their lives and friendships. The result is a self- proclaimed on-stage soap opera that feels like a very sexy after-school special.

Set in the heart of Manchester’s gay village, we meet our cast of characters after a wild night at Jock – one of the city’s hottest club nights. Quintessential muscle bear Ben (David Paisley) is the oldest of the group and therefore host of the afters. He’s joined in his bedroom by sardonic, sassy Kam (Sam Goodchild) and gym bunny Russell (Matthew Gent). The group’s outlier, AJ (Levi Payne), is a wide-eyed, naive Donny youngster who’s fresh off the bus and is being inducted into this world of drugs, sexual freedom and polyester mesh. Things get off to a rocky start, only to get further derailed when down-on-his-luck pornstar Hunter (George Hughes) enters the fold. All the gay archetypes are here: the innocent, the caregiver, the hero, the jester and, of course, the OnlyFans model.

This perfectly cast production is an in-depth glimpse at a very particular aspect of the queer experience, that of muscled men in leather harnesses thrusting away in dark rooms until the early hours. Its cultural touch points are spot on, from the real-life club night that anchors the plot to Kam’s obscure Coronation Street references. Were you to know anyone curious about what gay life is like in Manchester, this would be the ultimate two-hour introduction. The fact that the handsome ensemble spends most of the performance in next to nothing is just a bonus.

Writer-director Adam Zane’s adoration for soaps not only comes through
in the script, but the direction. Every scene is meticulously mapped out to bring the high drama while still taking the opportunity to ‘wink wink, nudge nudge’. This is clearly Adam’s love letter to the Gay Village, which to him still lives up to the glamour and melodrama of its Queer as Folk days.

Jock Night is an enjoyable fable. Its lessons won’t be new to any of us who may have attended a Jock or two ourselves, it’s always good to get a refresher – especially one delivered by a cast of five scantily clad Adonises.

Try and catch it quick!


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