While the content of this two-hander by Daniel Huntley Solon might once have been progressive, its form is oddly outdated.
That tension lies at the heart of Sex, With Benefits which sees two young gay men with radically conflicting personal agendas finally meet in person after years of communicating online. Duncan (Martin Cowan) is completely in love and ready to settle down with the man who he sees as his soul mate, while Grey (Shane Nippard), rather more realistically, is simply anticipating a long-overdue shag. The pair, having previously only communicated on chatrooms and Grindr, are forced to navigate the inevitable awkwardness of a real-life meeting, while confronting their own inclinations around their sexuality.
Solon’s writing is plagued by an overreliance on long speeches in which his characters spout their world view. The result is two characters who bear very little resemblance to anyone I’ve ever encountered and a play which is almost entirely devoid of emotional truth.
The play seems to conflate a number of potentially interesting thematic concerns without truly engaging with any of them. One is to do with the impact the proliferation of social media has had on the development of love relationships. Another deals with whether the institution of marriage still represents a viable proposition in a more liberal contemporary climate. While it is of course possible for a play to have more than one central concern, they are unhelpfully conflated to the point where it is difficult to decipher what it is the author is trying to reveal about the challenges of entering a modern gay relationship.
Both actors do well to fill these paper thin characters with any sort of integrity, with Cowan finding a gentle credulity in his portrayal of Duncan to make him likeable if completely unbelievable.
Ultimately though, this is a play in which nothing happens, nothing changes and of which I will remember next to nothing.
Sex, With Benefits is at Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18) until 10 August. For more information and tickets go to the EdFringe website.