Alexis Gregory
Alexis Gregory & Emmerson and Ward
Soho Theatre

Alexis Gregory as 'B' and Jonny Woo as 'A' Credit: Matt Spike
Jonny Woo as 'A' Credit: Matt Spike
Alexis Gregory as 'B' Credit: Matt Spike
Jonny Woo as 'A' and Alexis Gregory as 'B' Credit: Matt Spike

“There is no place for emotional attachment here. I am going to hurt you,” declares man ‘A’ to man ‘B’ who has booked his services. Services for which it seems there is a demand despite their deviance.

B wants to die and to die pleasurably; he believes that is what he is booked in for. His idea of pleasure may not be what you would choose. A offers a copycat reproduction of the ordeal of one of the victims of a notorious serial killer of young homosexuals, a killer who is still at large. There is a choice of any of his various methods.

Jonny Woo’s clipboard-wielding A is very well organised, proud of his professionalism, strictly adhering to health and safety, non-liability agreement and a stickler for his rules but B, claiming his e-mail was unable to download all the detail, has no time for the small print. Having climbed all the stairs to what he insists is A’s attic, he’s already in a heightened state and want to get on with it.

A produces a hypodermic and administers an injection that induces a quivering paroxysm in B. While Alexis Gregory’s B goes into involuntary spasms, A lays out the strange tools of his trade ready around the room.

This disturbing investigation of extreme sexual gratification is a very dark piece that crosses boundaries like a Jacobean revenge play and Gregory’s writing has some of the poetic boldness of a Jacobean drama too but it also has a strong comic vein.

There is a satirical edge to the presentation of gay male excesses, but also an underlying understanding of the self-guilt that society produces in many, the way in which violence becomes associated with sexual excitement.

“Promise me you’ll make me forget who I am,” begs B and his wish to not be himself is underlined by a series of masks from leather gag to clown face, but it is also about the desperate desire for a relationship.

Robert Chevara’s production gives it a stylisation that makes it more easily watchable—vicious violence is preceded by a warning flood of red light with a blackout as the blow or the kick seen beginning lands with a loud noise—but the actors’ committed performances give it an instant reality. Woo’s composed ordered A delivers violence by rote, only flaring to anger when Gregory’s fluttery, camp B, halfway between dread and excitement, won’t follow his rulebook.

What could be a painful 60 minutes becomes a compelling piece of theatre that touches on a whole range of issues.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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