Interview with Patrick Cash, writer of 'The Chemsex Monologues'

The Chemsex Monologues returns to The King's Head Theatre in August. We wanted to get the inside scoop on this explicit, funny and touching show, so we sat down with writer Patrick Cash and got all of that...and a bit more:

For those who haven’t seen it yet, can you give us an overview of the play?

The play follows a simple format: five different stories from the chemsex scene told through four different characters, with the same character both opening and closing the play. Two of the characters are guys you might find at the chillouts; one in his mid-twenties and the other is nineteen with that perfect gym-toned body. But we also wanted to look at the scene from outside perspectives, so there’s a fag hag named Cath, and a sexual health worker doing community outreach at the saunas. It was very important to me when writing the monologues that, whilst not shying away from serious issues, they didn’t judge or moralise about the loveable people they portray. The resulting piece is explicit, sometimes highly erotic, but I hope also honest, with real humour and emotion.

Chemsex isn’t often openly talked about in the community. Was the play written to be a conversation starter for people?

I definitely believe in these subjects being spoken about more openly: there’s a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ underground nature that illegal drugs often arrived wrapped in, and I feel that can potentially increase any harm that might be happening. This is part of the reason why I run the Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs forum with 56 Dean Street. However, although any art that inspires debate has served its task well, I wouldn’t say I necessarily wrote the play to be a conversation starter. It was originally commissioned for the inaugural European Chemsex Forum, to give the assembled healthcare professionals an insight into the real lives of people on the chemsex scene. That certainly appealed to me as a writer: finding the emotional truth of people’s lives, especially when those circumstances may be misrepresented in certain sections of the media.

When it is talked about in the press the headlines can often be judgmental. Does the play tackle the issue in a way that encourages further debate?

What art can do wholly is humanise these stories. In an article you only have limited space to give your overview of an issue, but when sitting with characters for over an hour in a theatre, you can travel with them on their emotional journey: laugh, cry and empathise. Even if you’ve never been on the chemsex scene, or you fervently believe all drugs are the toxic droppings of Satan, what good art does is remind us of our shared humanity, however much our viewpoints and situations might differ. Empathy is our greatest tool for debate.

Tell us about the different characters we are going to meet in the play.

The first character is a handsome hedonist, played by the very eloquent and awesomely talented Richard Watkins. He gets his first taste of the chemsex scene after a Soho bender, when he gets introduced to the pleasures of G by a sexy boy. Second, we go into that sexy boy’s world, played by the wonderful Denholm Spurr, as he ends up at a chillout hosted by Old Mother Meth. Denholm also totally rocks those tiny, shiny chillout shorts during this monologue. Third, Fag Hag Cath (played by the beyond delightful Charly Flyte) is totally not doing drugs tonight, when she rocks up at Old Mother Meth’s brandishing a bottle of vodka to check up on best friend Steve. And Daniel the sexual health worker is conducting community outreach HIV tests in the saunas, when a chemmed-up stranger in a towel starts flirting with him… Check out Matthew Hodson being hilarious in this role!

Have any of your personal experiences on the scene gone into the play?

I’ve spent almost the past decade living in London, which spans pretty much the whole of my twenties. I’ve experienced a lot in that time. I worked at a gay nightlife magazine and part of my job was being out in the clubs: although I have a fairly libertarian attitude to drugs, a question that struck me even in my early twenties was “why is everyone in Vauxhall on drugs?” Then of course the apps spilled it out of the clubs. So in that sense my personal experiences do feed into the play, which helps to access that emotional truth of the characters. And the question of why so many gay men do drugs has stuck with me.

Tell us about Dragonflies Theatre and your future plans.

Dragonflies Theatre is a theatre company I run with Luke Davies, the director of Chemsex Monologues and my long-term collaborator. So far we’ve produced four plays in the past year: The Clinic, based on sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street, Queers, exploring the modern LGBT experience, and Superficial, a majority comic play on the pop music, drag and masculinity of the Soho gay scene. They’ve all had great reactions, which is very encouraging, although it’s a lot of work! We’re currently discussing a new play about social media, and a big scale epic play about hate crime and the rise of right-wing fascism. You can find out more about us at our website: www.dragonfliestheatre.co.uk

Finally, we love a bit of gossip here at OutSavvy. Is there any gossip about the cast you would like to share?

One of the cast has a humongous penis… But I can’t reveal which one!

The Chemsex Monologues is at the King’s Head Theatre (115 Upper Street, N1 1QN) from 24th March - 9th April. To book tickets click here.

The Chemsex Monologues is also being published by Oberon Books. To pre-order a copy, click here:
http://oberonbooks.com/chemsex-monologues

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