INTERVIEW: DRAGONFLIES THEATRE BRING THE CHEMSEX MONOLOGUES TO ADELAIDE FRINGE

The Chemsex Monologues was originally commissioned as ‘evening entertainment’ for the first ever European Chemsex Forum, held in London in 2016. The Upside News spoke to Rich Watkins, the producer of the Australian leg of the show on their upcoming Adelaide Fringe run. “The play explores the phenomenon of Chemsex, which can be defined as the sexualised use of drugs, a growing problem within the UK gay male community and across the world. The play was a means of showing the emotional truth of human beings caught up in the world of Chemsex.” Watkins said.

After the play was commissioned for the European Chemsex Forum, Patrick Cash, the playwright, got in touch with Luke Davies, with whom he’d put on two plays already, and asked him if he’d like to direct. After two successful runs at the King’s Head Theatre in London, Watkins suggested taking the play to Adelaide Fringe – and here they are!

Dragonflies Theatre have put together a superlative cast taking on this highly acclaimed piece of writing. Damien Killeen plays “Nameless” – Damien is the President of the Gay men’s sexual and mental health charity ‘Impulse London’ and was named by The Times as an actor with “a great professional future”.

The role of “Fag Hag Cath” will be performed by Remy Moynes, an actress with both a classical and musical theatre background who has previously toured Australia with the cabaret Anything You Can Do. In the role of “Daniel” is Richard Unwin, who worked with Cambridge Shakespeare Company for many seasons and performed a number of roles in in the acclaimed range of BBC licensed Doctor Who audio dramas. Producer Watkins joins this impressive line-up in the role of “Narrator”.

The play is primarily a work of creative fiction. The characters of Nameless, Fag Hag Cath and Daniel the Sexual Health Worker do not exist in real life. However, Cash did work within the gay nightlife arena of London for two years and witnessed firsthand the highs and lows of Chemsex parties. Currently working in sexual health, Cash has seen the harms of sexual assault, addiction, breakdowns etc. These real experiences feed into building the truthful art world of The Chemsex Monologues.

A lot of people expect a play about excessive drug taking to be entirely dark and depressive, but this is not the case. Each monologue is constructed so that it’s a proper, suspenseful story that engages and surprises. With that comes a certain amount of comedy. “Real people taking drugs are not all tragic caricatures. They have their lighter sides too. But we also try to drive home the heart and humanity of this potentially perilous situation which, of course, leads to darker moments of despair.” Watkins said. “Essentially, you can expect to laugh, cry and be moved by a play which will really make you think.”

The Chemsex Monologues wants to convey that this issue does not just affect young, gay men. We see the world through the eyes of the straight female best friend, the sexual health worker who has never touched a drug and the boy who feels in control of his usage but witnesses heartache of those around him. Watkins said “We encourage all audiences to come along, whatever gender, sexuality or lifestyle they identify with!”

“Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, we want to create a conversation about the mental health difficulties surrounding drug usage and homosexuality. One of the characters we meet has quite severe mental health issues which are exacerbated by his drug use. And several people we meet in the play have difficulties surrounding intimacy and trust, which is sadly a common occurrence within the gay community.”

The Chemsex Monologues is showing at The GC at The German Club from March 7 – 19 as part of Adelaide Fringe. Tickets and information can be found here.

There is a lot lined up for Dragonflies Theatre in 2017, including further runs of The Chemsex Monologues. You can follow the company’s progress here.