Dating is a challenge for everyone. In the gay community, I feel it's twice as tough. With all the dating apps out there, guys are at your fingertips 24 hours a day 7 days a week. From hook-up apps to legitimate dates, you make the encounter what you want. When it comes to sex, I'm pretty vanilla in bed, but there is a whole world of sex to be explored, from threesomes to kink to sex with drugs.
I've never done drugs nor do I have an inclination to do them. But when I read about Peter Darney's play, 5 Guys Chillin' which explores the world of chemsex (having sex while using drugs), instant gratification, and the longing for intimacy, I just had to find out more.
I'm thrilled to have penetrated Peter with such delving questions while he was so willing to open up to me about this play, the topic of chemsex, and what he learned from writing 5 Guys Chillin'. From the horror stories of overdoses to those who found love, this was a very eye opening interview. This interview is not promoting the use of drugs or any sexual experiences to be had, it is exploring a topic that needs to be talked about more openly.
5 Guys Chillin' just completed a triumphant run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this past August and is now coming to NYC for just 14 performances during The Fringe Encore Series (both NYC & Edinburgh) at the SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street) from September 27-October 9. Click here for tickets!
1. This September you are presenting an encore presentation of your show 5 Guys Chillin' as part of the Fringe Encore Series at SoHoPlayhouse. Your show was in Edinburgh Fringe. What was the best part about presenting this show at Edinburgh Fringe? What did you come away with from that presentation? There are lots of great things about doing Edinburgh, it’s a truly unique festival on a massive scale. Whilst we came away with some more good reviews and the usual stuff - by far the best thing we came away with was the audience reaction and getting to reach so many new people. We also paired up with a new charity in Edinburgh called the SX Project and managed to give away over 6000 condoms.
2. What excites about having NYC audiences see this show and being back at the SoHo Playhouse? (I got to see your wonderful staging of Signal Failure and do a great interview with Spencer Cowan and Sasha Ellen). New York is one of the most amazing cities in the world, and I'm so excited to be coming back. Whilst it's a different country, the problems and questions that the MSM community are facing are pretty much the same wherever we go, from London, to Dublin, to Edinburgh, and I hope to NYC.
This is a very very provocative play. It sparks debate, arguments and shows you a world in a no-holes barred kind of way. It’s a very different type of play and gets a strong reaction wherever we go. It’s very exciting to see how that will go in NYC.
3. 5 Guys Chillin' is an original look into a drug-fuelled, hedonistic, highly secret world of chemsex, Grindr and the search for intimacy and instant gratification.What was it like creating this show and hearing everyone's stories? Creating this show was a very unique process. I basically put Grindr on everywhere I went, and favorited guys who were at Chill-Out (P&P) parties. A few days later when I thought they might have come down, I messaged them about the project and asked them to meet me. I spent a lot of time sitting in bars and cafes waiting for people who never showed. But some did and so I have a play!
Cutting the interviews into dialogue, and even just transcribing the text, made me realize that it would be a million times easier to have just written something. But a lot of this - had I written it- you wouldn’t believe. Hearing the stories could be funny, sad, frustrating, and at times enraging. But the main thing I felt was honored, that these guys were trusting me with their most private, biggest secrets. I felt a bit like a therapist!!
4. What did you learn about yourself from writing this show? That I am not as free as I thought I was, but that in some ways I am freer.
5. What was the scariest story you heard from someone? What was the most inspiring story you heard? The scariest story I heard was from a guy that had been cheating on his partner at a chill-out. He took too much GHB and went under. When he came round, he realized that he had been repeatedly raped by multiple guys whilst he was unconscious. The guys that raped him gave him HIV and Hep C.
The most inspiring story was from a guy that met his now-husband at a chill-out.
6. In 5 Guys Chillin' description, it states the show looks at "the highly secret world of chemsex," but if you go on Grindr, that world doesn't seem so secretive. It seems the majority of people on there are looking to "chill," especially with Netflix...haha. With Grindr at the tips of everyone fingers offering endless possibilities of "chill" sexual encounters (except for when people don't write back or block you), why do you say, "the highly secret world of chemsex"? Where's the secret? The fact that chills happen is no secret in the MSM community. But for a lot of gay men (not all) their attendance at one is accompanied by some guilt and shame. If you are a lawyer, a police man or a phycologist you may have to keep it very secret. Some gay men fear the "judgment" that they perceive could happen. That they will be branded promiscuous. That their drug taking will be judged. That their relationship model will be judged for not conforming to heterosexual norms. So the world itself remains secret - people don’t admit to going or talk about them much after. What goes on, the highs and lows remain quite secret.
People often walk out of the play saying "I don't believe that" to have another audience member say "actually, that’s happened to me too." All that secrecy can lead people to make choices that might not be the best for them. We need to make what ever choice is right for us but from an informed place.
7. Since this show is about intimacy and instant gratification...let's get cozy! What has been your top 3 best & worst chillin' sexual experiences? What made them so pleasurable and/or unenjoyable? So I have never been into this scene personally but I went to a couple, hosted by a friend, as I was writing the play. The high points would be the new friends, some extremely hot guys in very little clothing and a sense of fun and acceptance.
The low points would be seeing 4 people have GHB fits in an evening, watching paranoia set in and most of my new "friends" blocking me in the morning!
8. I have never done drugs, nor do I have a desire to try them, but I do feel I've gotten a lot of pleasure from sex, whether it's been from a one night stand or while in a relationship. From your experience, either personal or in putting this show together, what do drugs add to your sexual experience that you can't get without them? Have you or from those you've interviewed, ever been too high to enjoy the experience or after you've come down from the high, not remember what just happened? Have the drugs ever impaired judgement in a sexual encounter? There is a lot about this in the play. Guys can have sex for days on Chrystal Meth, and in London the combination of GHB, Chrystal Meth and Mephadronehas been documented to massively increase sexual desire. Where it tips into a problem, is guys not being able to have, or not wanting to have, sex without it. It can seem too pale in comparison. Lots of guys pass out and don’t know what’s happened to them. And guys often make safer sex decisions, or choices of partners, that they might regret later when they are high. One of the guys I interviewed said, "When I’m high I get so fucking horny I’d let a truck fuck me."
9. Apps like Grindr, Squirt, Manhunt, and many others fuel instant sexual gratification. While there is a large population of guys who just want that, there is still another segment of the population that want get to know someone and have true intimacy that one can only get from really knowing someone on multiple levels. How do you think one can still find that kind intimacy in this day and age when there is the possibility of a new guy at the touch of each finger? That’s a really important point, and if you asked me what my play is about, I would say ultimately it is about intimacy. Apps are for what ever you choose to use them for. You can get a date on Grindr. I have made friends on Grindr in cities where I knew no-one. However, I think intimacy is a big issue for us as a community.
I grew up with a secret, and every relationship I had had a lie behind it. I was never being really true to myself. Because I was gay. When my peers were learning to love, I was learning to hide. Pretty unsuccessfully, to be honest!! So many of us are denied intimate and honest relationships as we grow up, I think it’s harder to have them when we are older. It’s harder to accept yourself when you grow up in a world where "gay" is slang for "shit" or "uncool" (which - if we were, why do the straights all copy us!?).
The problem is not caused by our ability to have so much choice - we still have a reduced pool compared to a heterosexual. It’s caused by us making that choice. I think it’s caused by it being tougher, taking more work, for us to have intimacy. And that’s something that we, as a community, need to look at - without judgment or shame, but with love, tolerance and acceptance.
10. If you had to leave us with one final thought on this topic, what do you want people to know that perhaps I didn't touch upon in this interview or that you discovered from creating this show that you didn't get to put in the show? There are as many experiences as there are people. The show could never cover everything. But I think that there are a lot of things in there to which anyone - gay, straight, or fabulously fluid, can relate to.
5 Guys Chillin' was winner of the Brighton Fringe LGBTQ Award, and double award winner at this years Dublin international Gay Theatre Festival, and a sell-out at this years Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Previously it ran for 4 months at the Kings Head Theatre, London, and has now been seen by over 12,000 people. It is published by Oberon Books and can be purchased here: www.oberonbooks.com/five-guys-chillin.html
Peter's company Em-Lou Productions is currently producing Muvvahood, a verbatim drama by Libby Liburd about the experiences of single mothers in London and their frequent vilification. Muvvahood, which is supported by the Arts Council, will play from the 27-29th October at Stratford Circus Arts Centre and 3-5th November at Camden People's Theatre. His production of Signal Failure, recently played Soho Playhouse, New York for a 6 week off-Broadway run. "A triumph" Washington Square News.
This follows on from a successful Edinburgh Festival at the Underbelly "A genuinely fresh look at not only relationships, but also modern city life" The Scotsman **** Frank Sent Me also played the Underbelly after previewing at Theatre 503 "Artfully directed by Peter Darney" The Scotsman ****
Other recent highlights include a new afternoon drama for BBC Radio 4 Kindness, which was pick of the week in the Telegraph, Radio Times and The Stage. "Upsetting an excellent psychological drama" Daily Mail *****
His production of Githa played York Theatre Royal and the St James Theatre in London's West End.