THISISPOPBABY to premiere new evocative play on chemsex scene in Ireland

'Party Scene' is the new play by THISISPOPBABY exploring the chemsex scene and its effects on the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland.

Poster for new chemsex play 'Party Scene: Chemsex, Community and Crisis' by ThisIsPopBaby, showing three men huggin each other provocatively.
Image: Via Twitter - @thisispopbaby

The new play Party Scene: Chemsex, Community and Crisis by theatre production company THISISPOPBABY premieres this summer at Cork Midsummer Festival and in Dublin’s Project Arts Centre. Using dance and drama, the play explores how the chemsex scene and queer culture intersect in Ireland, sometimes with detrimental effects on the lives of gay men.

Dublin-based theatre company THISISPOPBABY is an integral part of the Irish art scene that places itself between popular culture, queer culture, coutur culture and high art. They’re famous for staging more celebratory shows like RIOT and Alice in Funderland and for bringing to life Ireland’s Eurovision 2020 entry. Their new production Party Scene is a collaboration between director Philip McMahon and choreographer Philip Connaughton.

The play is a provocative exploration of chemsex culture that aims at starting conversations around desire, intimacy, isolation and addiction. It immerses the audience into this frenetic suburban world of queer culture, raising tough questions about drugs, sex, consent and mental health.

Although it doesn’t have a clear definition, chemsex usually refers to the use of drugs such as GHB or crystal meth to enhance sexual performance. It can involve sex with a partner, a casual hook-up or group sex at private parties. Historically, chemsex has had a particular affinity with queer culture, particularly with the gay male community.

“Let’s be honest, drugs and sex in the queer community is a tale as old as time,” said director McMahon. “What you were seeing a lot in the 90s and the early 2000s was this massive love bomb of MDMA [ecstasy] and in some ways, communities being forged from moments on the dance floor. Then the scene changed and what we were seeing was GHB and crystal meth coming in. There was an escalation of addiction that was compounding a lot of issues for queer people — gay men is what we are talking about mostly in this piece”.

Indeed, using this type of drugs induces euphoria and increases sex drive, but it can also be dangerous, as they are easy to overdose on. Moreover, they can be highly addictive. Most people never incur such negative effects, but some are not as lucky.

For the director, chemsex culture is intrinsically linked to a society where heterosexuality is the norm and the self-expression of queer people is still constrained. He is aware that the play will encounter resistance from some fringes of the chemsex scene, but he believes that starting the conversation is necessary. “I believe the community will understand that we are just representing a moment. In the gay rights or queer movement, we have always shown up for each other, what we have here is a massive health crisis. We have had friends or acquaintances who have died or gone down difficult paths — this is our way of showing up for our brothers,” he said.

And this is what their production is fundamentally about. It asks the question: when does an underground scene become a community crisis, and when is it time for the party to end?

The play will be on stage at Cork Summer Festival from June 15 to 17 and at the Project Arts Centre from June 22 to July 2. Grab your tickets here!

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