Review: 69 Shades of Gay

69 shade1sFrances Winston reviews 69 Shades of Gay and says there are many laugh-out-loud moments, but you need to approach it with an open mind

69 Shades of Gay

Smock Alley Theatre, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 8.

Runs until June 11th at 7.30pm nightly.

Adults only. Tickets €25/20 Student concession €15 Thursdays only.

Aiden is a cute gay boy about town, but he’s found the one and is ready to settle down. Well actually, he’s found his 69th in Marcus, but he is pretty sure that this is the real deal. Convinced that Marcus is going to pop the question and ask him to move in with him, he sets about planning their life together – well their sofa anyway – while reflecting on past encounters as he deletes contacts, photos and dating apps from his phone in anticipation of a life of gay abandon with his Mr Wright.

Written by Stuart Thomas and performed by Rob Murphy – best known as Buffy from the Cheerios pantos – there is a reason this is adults only. From the off, there are references to sex toys, sex acts, and general sexual shenanigans. Nothing is sacred as he runs the gamut of his relationships, and I am pretty sure many of the audience will leave better educated about the broad spectrum of sexual possibilities that exist.

Murphy plays Aiden in a highly exaggerated OTT queenie manner that fits in with the gay stereotype – a gay by numbers if you will. You name a gay cliché and it’s in there. From the casual one night hook ups (which he doesn’t count as part of his 69) to his love and knowledge of Kylie, to his beard, who calls and texts him throughout the play.

On the whole, this does work and is very funny. However, a certain amount of knowledge of gay culture is required to get some of the gags, and it never really comes up for air to allow the audience to process anything they have seen.

Murphy does a great job involving the audience, and shamelessly runs around the stage wearing Aiden’s confidence and cockiness, much like the bathrobe he wears for about the first 25 minutes of the show. When Aiden is up, and chatty, and excited about things, he is brilliant, but he does struggle slightly when it dips to a more serious tone. I did feel that was more to do with the pacing of the show than his ability as performer though. The script is so breakneck, that any sudden change of pace simply jolts.

The set is basically Aiden’s apartment, and sets a perfect tone for this show. Murphy uses the space well and he truly does inhabit it. The audience are invited into his living room to hang out with him – he is totally in charge here.

Unfortunately, the last 10 minutes appeared to be dragged out to try and get one final belly-laugh, and the particular joke wore a bit thin after about 3 or 4 minutes. Also, it never really felt like there was any resolution, or that Aiden had really learned anything. I wasn’t expecting that though. The purpose of this play is to make you laugh, not to engage you in an analysis of the gay lifestyle. It is somewhat one-dimensional. but that doesn’t stop it being entertaining.

This had the potential to be heart-wrenching in places, but missed the beats. However, in terms of laugh-out-loud hilarity, it ticks the boxes once you approach it with an open mind, and a certain degree of cynicism.

If you are easily offended or consider yourself prudish though, I would give this a miss. Shows like this work best with an upbeat engaged audience, and if you just head along to be outraged you’ll ruin it for everybody.

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