A new play, debuting in London this week, will examine controlling and coercive behaviour in a gay male relationship; tackling a controversial and previously under-discussed subject.
HOLD by Richard Chilver also explores shame, internalised homophobia and the unique set of emotional and psychological dynamics that underpin gay male relationships.
Figures from Stonewall UK show that a staggering 49% of all gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one issue of a domestic abuse from a partner or family member since the age of 16, figures which highlight the relevance of opening up dialogue around such issues.
The play introduces Adam, an experienced gay man in his 30s, and his younger, less experienced partner (so-called ‘baby gay’) Marc. It explores the role that chemsex as well as violence plays in their relationship and challenges what perceptions of abuse might be, suggesting that it may not always be obvious to the partner on the receiving end that abuse is what they are experiencing.
Former Attitude editor and author of Straight Jacket: How to be gay and happy, Matthew Todd, has acted as a script editor on the production, directed by Alex Vendittelli of the salon: collective, based in London.
Matthew said “Gay relationships have a unique set of power dynamics, and the complex psycho -social and emotional issues gay men deal with from their childhoods and into adulthood, have only started to be more-widely discussed very recently. I’m really happy to have met with the writer and producers and given feedback on a script that takes a look at these, that will hopefully open-up further dialogue among the LGBTQ+ community and beyond”
Richard Chilver set out to raise questions about how domestic abuse is established not only in gay partnerships but in all relationships; Richard said: “I am trying to show that no one is inherently bad, but that social and emotional isolation can help perpetuate the cycle of abuse”.
HOLD aims to push boundaries with the subject matter and also with the art form. Both the roles of Marc and Adam are played by the same actor (Jonathan Milshaw). The casting symbolises the duality we all have in our characters, how each half of a partnership has the capacity to switch roles, and the emotional proximity and co-dependence which can exist within an abusive relationship.
Director Alex Vendittelli said: “In working closely together on this piece Richard and I have both challenged our perceptions of relationships and stereotypes. It’s not a comfortable story, but our intention is to generate honest and open discussion for audiences of any sexuality. Despite the serious nature of the subject matter there is also some lightness and humour in the story, and ultimately it offers hope and redemption.”
The play will initially be performed as a rehearsed reading at venues in London and Colchester. Essex. Post-show feedback and audience discussion will feed into a full production with the aim of a 2019 tour
Catch HOLD this Sunday 18 and Monday 19 November at Theatre 503, Battersea, London and Friday 23 November at Lakeside Theatre, Colchester, Essex.
For further info and to book tickets go to: https://thesaloncollective.org/hold/