Bunker Theatre, London – until 7 July 2018
‘Masc4masc’, ‘no fats, no femmes, no Asians’, ‘str8-acting’ – for all that apps like Grindr have revolutionised the gay dating world, it’s also allowed for a proliferation of retrogressive notions of masculinity that fly in the face of the freedom that embracing your queer identity ought to bring. And it is such a world that leoe&hyde’s latest piece Guy – A New Musical seeks to tackle with a refreshing take on the genre.
Guy is determined to find love, but in all his insecurities about his weight and his looks and his lack of confidence, isn’t having much luck. Hours spent scrolling through profile after profile of ripped shirtless torsos aren’t helping – so what’s a boy to do? Guy shows us how the impact of a decision to make even just a small change can completely change your prospects, a slight shift in outlook can really make you see the world a different way. And crucially, show you that the way you see yourself is vastly different from how others perceive you.
On the one hand, it is really great to see a gay rom-com being unashamedly romantic and comedic in such an inclusive manner. Brendan Matthews’ Guy is a beautifully observed central character, a Queer Eye guest in the making as doubts plague his every move. And Seann Miley Moore is fantastic as Aziz (his stage presence is properly electric), Guy’s seeming polar opposite and we all know what opposites do… Between them, ideas of race and weight in the gay community are discussed thoughtfully in Leoe Mercer’s sincerely heartfelt book.
On the other, I couldn’t help but wish that Sam Ward’s production had pushed even further in pushing its diversity, giving us another character with a big belly rather than big biceps, reflecting the tribalism of gay communities but also offering a counterpoint to Guy’s experience (by making him an active Growlr user, perchance…). An under-explored thread of body pressures resulting in eating disorders doesn’t carry quite the same weight, as significant an issue as it undoubtedly is.
And as refreshing as Stephen Hyde’s pulsingly modern electronic score is, it leaves little room for dynamics and nuance in what ought to be quieter, more considered moments, the pacing just a little too relentless. In straight-up pop moments like ‘I Was A Man Once’ and the infernally catchy ‘Click’ though, Guy has its undeniable charms and the kind of widening of perspective that we’d all do to well to heed.