Theatre 503, London
Until 24th May
Fast Love is an exceptionally bleak but witty coming-of-age story that does half of what it says on the tin. It’s fast, really fast, as we are taken on a whistle-stop tour of Rory’s disastrous life as he tries desperately to find love. But, very sadly for Rory, it is desperate and his experiences include being raped by a student in the year above him at school as well as a number of soulless Grindr hook-ups.
Matthew Bunn is brilliant as Rory and has a lot of lines to learn as he guides us through Rory’s hectic life. Meanwhile, Sven Ironside plays ‘The Man’ which includes acting a couple of dissatisfied girlfriends and a lot of awkward dates. Together the pair own the stage and are a thrill to watch, directed brilliantly by Monty Leigh. Jack Albert Cook’s script is equal parts witty to bleak and the majority of it is monologic. There were times when I would have loved some more dialogue between the two actors and for Ironside to be allowed to develop some of the other characters. Also a few too many times the same thing happened twice – namely Bunn describing an action which Bunn/Ironside promptly enacted. At times this heightened the moment and at others I would have loved for the actions to speak in place of the words.
Story-wise, the play is a catalogue of disasters from homophobic bullying through to intense depression, a depressingly common story on and off stage. There were times when I felt like we were laughing at Rory and his suffering, and that gay male mental health was being reduced to a punch line – as gay men so often pretend ‘everything’s fine’ by laughing it off – and maybe this was the point, as the audience was rendered complicit in the trivialising of Rory’s pain. Perhaps a few slower and/or quieter moments would have allowed for the play’s significance to sink in a little more. Rory can’t tell jokes all the time can he!?
There are many stories out there about unhappy gay men and Fast Love is certainly one of them. Unlike many, it tries to go a little deeper beneath the surface and explore the mental health implications of what’s really going on. However, from one “sordid sex story” to the next I felt the one-liners had a tendency to overshadow the poignancy. Nevertheless, I applaud Stupid Love Theatre for so starkly showing that everything isn’t fine and how so much of what’s going on for gay men is awful. They make for an impressive ensemble and I think their work will keep getting better. And they’re 100% queer, what’s not to love!
© R. Holtom 2019