Four Play is the new production in the studio at Above The Stag, a darkly comic look at sex and commitment. It explores how relationships can survive in our digitally swamped world. We asked writer Jake Brunger to tell us more.
Hi Jake, can you tell us the story set up for Four Play?
The story is about a young couple, Rafe and Pete, who have been together for seven and a half years but have never slept with anyone else. Curious as to what it would be like to sleep with another man, they proposition a mutual friend of theirs – Michael – to have sex with them both, despite knowing that he’s in a relationship with their old friend Andrew. What unfolds is the fallout of their sexual trysts, and let’s just say, sparks seriously fly. At times it’s very funny, but at other times it’s devastatingly sad – a real rollercoaster of emotions.
What made you want to write a story about the politics of sex?
I too had been in a long-term relationship from a young age, and when me and my then boyfriend moved to London we made all sorts of new gay friends who were in different kinds of relationships; open, semi-open, friends with benefits, etc. I was fascinated as to where gay guys sit on the spectrum of monogamy in relationships – as it differs so much – and I wanted to write something that explored that in a very domestic and accessible situation. Interestingly, Four Play appeals to straight audiences just as much as it does gay ones. I’ve been amazed by the emails and messages I’ve had from straight people who have really connected with it.
Can you talk us through the characters?
Rafe and Pete are that classic Instagram-smug couple who post adorable pictures of themselves ice-skating or having wildly over-priced cocktails in Soho House. The people everyone hates but secretly wants to be. Whereas Michael and Andrew are a bit more oddly matched; Michael’s a commitment-phobic gym-bunny described in the play as a ‘10/10’ whilst his boyfriend Andrew is a charming but ‘funny looking 6’. They’re the ones who are open, but at Michael’s request, not Andrew’s. Relationships aside, the play also explores the minutiae of the rest of their lifestyles too: Pete sold out and works for KPMG whereas socialist Andrew stuck to his guns and works for a charity. That causes friction between the two sets of friends, which I think everyone can relate to.
Do you think there’s an inevitability that a situation like this would get out of control, or do you think adding extra people can work to end a sexual rut?
Oh for sure, it can easily get out of control, and I think most of us gay guys have had to have tricky conversations with boyfriends or people we’re dating about it at some point. And when you do add people in, jealousy’s always going to be a natural thing, no matter how much you steel yourself against it. It’s all about communication; understanding and respecting how the other feels. But being ‘monogamish’ (a phrase I love!) is undoubtedly common in the gay community and it’s not a subject to shy away from or be ashamed of, hence the ongoing popularity of this play (this is its eighth or ninth production in the UK in less than five years). This new revival at Above the Stag runs over Valentine’s Day – it’s a great date night for long-term couples, new couples and dates, just prepare yourself for some potentially tricky convos afterwards!