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The Chemsex Monologues – King's Head Theatre, London

Exploring a controversial gay subculture

The Chemsex Monologues – King's Head Theatre, London
Image courtesy of King's Head Theatre
The Chemsex Monologues

A man meets a mysterious stranger on a night out in Vauxhall; a sexy poster-boy gets taken to a chill-out by a porn star; a fag-hag named Cath is pushed to her limits at the party of the century; a sexual health worker struggles with the burden of
community outreach.

The Chemsex Monologues are the untold stories of the men and women adrift in London’s chill-out, offering a frank, funny and touching insight into one of the twenty-first centuries most controversial gay subcultures. Originally staged during the King’s Head’s 2016 Queer Season, the show was selected for a full length, three-week run to mark the fiftieth year since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. It commences the theatre’s year-long celebration of this historic milestone.

Patrick CashImage courtesy of King's Head

Patrick Cash

Ahead of its latest run at the King’s Head in London, we spoke with playwright Patrick Cash for a behind-the-scenes look at The Chemsex Monologues:

Are you surprised at the success and longevity of The Chemsex Monologues?

Pleasantly surprised! You can’t tell how a piece of writing will be received, so the fact that people have enjoyed The Chemsex Monologues is great. It obviously deals with dark themes, but I think audiences have responded to showing real, loveable people beneath the drugs.

How has the conversation regarding chemsex changed since you first wrote The Chemsex Monologues?

It seems to me that it’s expanded, which is great. However I was in a conference in Manchester only this week where a doctor was presenting about young men being assaulted unconscious at chillouts, and guys not considering it rape. We need to reach all people who are lost.

Has the play evolved, or been updated at all, since it had its first run?

Not in its writing – the characters and words have essentially stayed the same. However the play itself has had a whole new lease of life for this run, with the King’s Head supplying a set, sound, and lighting designer. It’s going to look amazing and we’re grateful for their support.

The monologue structure seems to be style of theatre that you’re drawn to, why is that?

My background is spoken word, so I’m interested in the power of the storyteller. It gives an emotional insight into the character and how they see the world and other people. Also, in practical terms, the actor can take you anywhere in your imagination by their words.

What sort of feedback have you had to The Chemsex Monologues?

It’s all been incredibly positive. I think the humour running throughout the piece really adds to people’s enjoyment, balancing out the raw emotion. It’s just opened in Australia, and we were worried if people there would get it, but the reviews have been great there too.

What do you hope that audiences feel while watching The Chemsex Monologues?

Empathy. I think there’s a tendency to view people who use drugs as villains. But really if people are using drugs as a means of escape, it comes from their own mental health and vulnerability. Problematic drug use needs understanding rather than ostracisation.

In the context of the King’s Head season marking 50 years since decriminalisation in the UK, how do you see the place of The Chemsex Monologues within that journey?

I believe it relates to equality. We don’t have true equality in our society, and homophobia is still rife. LGBTQ people grow up invisible in a society designed for straight love stories. The Chemsex Monologues explores the symptoms of inequality, and a human need for connection.

Where to next with The Chemsex Monologues?

I’d hope that the play can go on to different cities and perhaps tour internationally. After the success in Australia, we’d love to take it to New York perhaps, as well as Edinburgh Festival, and Europe. And yes, there are some conversations in place about a film adaptation.

What next for Patrick Cash?

I’ve just finished a rewrite of my non-monologue play Superficial, which looks at masculinity and music amongst modern men. I’m working on a TV series pitch exploring race, sexuality and hope amongst British youth. Plus a new play is coming on combatting right-wing fascism.

The Chemsex Monologues will run at the King’s Head Theatre in London: 21 March – 9 April 2017

Read more from Gareth Johnson