This is a year for sweary play titles in London. We've already had The Motherf*cker With The Hat at the National and now we have F*cking Men at the King's Head Theatre.
Both titles are appropriate for their respective plays, the latter couldn't be more aptly described. It is an adaptation by Joe DiPietro of Arthur Schnitzler's controversial play which is most commonly known as La Ronde.
There are ten scenes of conversations between two characters before and after they have sex. One half of the pairing moves on into the next scene for another liaison and so it goes full circle until the first character reappears. DiPietro's version is set in the 21st century rather than late 1800s with gay relationships and sex life under the spotlight rather than heterosexual.
Given the title and subject matter it would be easy to hide cheap titillation under the veil of culture and yes there is a certain amount of nudity and sexually explicit scenes but that would dismiss the deeper human context of the play. F*cking Men is a psycho analysis of gay relationships and the role that sex plays in those relationships.
Sex as an act, sex with an emotional attachment, sex as part of a relationship, sex being the relationship, monogamy, promiscuity, open relationships - the play exposes the complexity of human attachment, physical and emotional need.
Each of the men are trying to reconcile their choices, perhaps not always consciously. Schnitzler's original play served to demonstrate, among other things, that sex and relationships transcended class and social divide, it is part of the human condition. F*cking Men while not making such an obvious class statement instead drills into societal attitudes towards gay men but most crucially examines gay attitudes to sex and relationships.
There are the inevitable jokes about the difference between men and women - you don't have to take a man out to dinner before you sleep with him - but the emotional entanglements aren't so very different.
Only one character and scenario didn't quite work for me and that was the camp playwright who thought popularity was the death of art. Having him 'bump' into the Hollywood actor in a broom cupboard just felt a little too much like fantasy rather than reality. It was the only bum note (sorry, couldn't resist).
F*cking Men isn't for the prudish but strip away the physical clothing it exposes a lot more than naked flesh (sorry, again).
You can catch it as part of season of gay theatre at the King's Head until August 30 and it is 100 minutes without an interval.
*** F*cking Men is returning to the King's Head from December 5 to January 9 ***