5 Guys Chillin' // King's Head Theatre and Em Lou Productions

As you check into 5 Guys Chillin’, you are handed two condoms and told not to use them during the performance. There’s some irony in the joke as the characters in the show probably wouldn’t want them.

The play is a snapshot of five guys during a chemsex party. This is usually defined as sex where the drugs (G or GHB, crystal meth and mephedrone) are taken before and during a prolonged ‘chill-out’ to prolong and enhance it. As with any other play, it would be wrong to extrapolate too widely, to suggest that it represented all in the “gay community”, itself a lazy term sometimes wrongly used interchangeably with “gay scene.” Both terms imply a complete uniformity of gay and bisexual experience. Nevertheless, a report on a survey of 1000 gay men in London in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham suggested that a tenth had had chemsex in the past 4 weeks. Reading into the actual survey though shows that the sample was recruited via “on-line social and sexual networking sites”, so it is unclear how representative it is.

The characters of 5 Guys Chillin’ reminisce about past fuck parties, and the drugs that allow them to party orgasm-free for days. Their conversation is only about sex. Most of them are HIV+, but they are fairly blasé about this as they have a low viral load. They prefer riding bareback anyway and are not all concerned about telling new partners their HIV status; one thinks all gay men should be HIV+ – after all PrEP is the solution. Other STDs are dismissed as curable inconveniences.

Gradually as the drugs start to work, individual differences emerge, with small glimpses of the men's back stories. Cultural pressures led to one guy to getting married, a set-up he has mixed feeling about, even though his wife knows he has sex with men. Others display wistful reflections on a past life without drugs. The guy who feels that being fisted helps someone to connect deeply inside him remains resolutely unquestioning – no regrets there. Strangely, much of this hedonism is reminiscent of attitudes during the 14th century to the Black Death, when desperate people who saw no future for humanity lived for the day and entirely for themselves. The guys in 5 Guys Chillin’ are cavalier about others, but also fatalistic about themselves.

- Alistair Lax


Links Relevant to this Diagnosis:

5 Guys Chillin'

What is Chemsex?New Scientist

The Chemsex Study - Sigmar Research

Chemsex, HIV and STI Transmission - British Medical Journal

Personal Testimony of Chemsex Experience - London Evening Standard