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‘Monogamy is one of the biggest pressures gay men face’ – Jake Brunger talks new show ‘Four Play’

By Ben Kelly

Jake Brunger is a young playwright who gained rave reviews for Adrian Mole The Musical last year. Now he’s bringing his new play – originally performed as part of the Old Vic New Voices project – to London’s Theatre503 in Battersea.  Four Play explores monogamy and commitment within gay relationships – something he feels is the biggest issue facing the modern gay man.

Am I right in thinking the Old Vic commissioned you to write Four Play?

About two years ago, Old Vic New Voices called me in for a meeting and said ‘We’d like you to write a state of the nation gay play’ – and that was their words, not mine, and I thought ‘Wow this is a big responsibility’. They wanted a gay play for a new generation, where coming out, or AIDS weren’t the focus. They wanted a piece that looked at a more modern context where we can live with those issues; how are gays living now? They suggested I wrote about gay marriage or adoption, and I went away for a week and decided that the biggest problem facing our generation of gay men is commitment and fidelity, and in order to get to gay marriage and adoption, we all need to work out how to live like heterosexuals for the first time. Because everything’s available to us now, and we can have that 2.4 children life, is that’s what we choose. I realised the problems all my gay friends were having was with commitment and fidelity in this new social media, Grindr, Tinder age, and how they actually manage to settle down. I realised I don’t know a single gay man who hasn’t been affected by the issue of fidelity in their relationship – whether that’s an unspoken arrangement, or that they’d been cheated on, or that they’d had a threesome.

In a nutshell, explain the plot of Four Play.

It’s about a couple who have been together for seven and a half years, and they’ve never slept with anyone else, and it’s starting to become a bit of a problem for them. They are curious about what it would be like to be with someone else. So they proposition a friend of theirs, who they know also has a boyfriend, and that they‘re in an open relationship; so they feel that by choosing him it will be safe for all of them. The play explores the consequences for both of those couples of going through the experience of sleeping with someone else.

Jake Brunger

Obviously not all gay men are promiscuous, but do you think gay people can ‘wire’ themselves to be monogamous, if they struggle with that?

I’d like to think so, and I think everyone likes to think so. This generation and the generation coming up now, 15, 16, they’re going into a very different landscape to people who are twenty years above that. This is not an exclusively gay issue either – there’s a lot of heterosexual people working on the play, and everyone feels these issues, regardless of sexuality, so I think it’s actually becoming a widespread issue. Knowing who to settle down with is becoming a generational problem because of things like Facebook where you stalk other people and their beautifully curated lives and you think, ‘Why don’t I have that? I want that.’ I don’t think it’s just gay couples thinking ‘Can we live like a happy married couple?’ – I think it’s also a question for the people of whom that was always expected anyway. I think because of the availability of Tinder, where you can go on two or three dates a week if you want, no one quite knows the point where you can say ‘OK, this is the person I want to marry, and these are the reasons why, and we’re going to be happy for the rest of our lives.’ But I think people aspire to that and that will never change.

Isn’t it the case that heterosexual couples have also been dealing with issues of monogamy, behind the smokescreen of marriage, and maybe we’re too harsh by always focusing on the problems gay men have with commitment?

I think there’s a certain label that comes with gay relationships, but I think also, the producer of the play acknowledged that this is a play where gender is removed, and it’s about men, and men’s needs. If you look at affairs through history, it tends to be the man who is generally typified who is leading these affairs. It could be a male thing. It could be that men have this need, and urge, and desire. The play looks at whether guys are just full of testosterone and just want to cum all the time, and maybe that’s where the problem with monogamy comes from; men wanting to put it about. So the play is about what happens when you take gender out of it, and you’re just looking at men, and male desire.


I don’t want you to give away the end of the play, but what conclusion did you come to through writing the play, about what we should do, and how we should handle these issues?

The conclusion of the play is about how we learn to live in the situations that we’re in, and how there’s no one model that fits for everyone; whether that be that you can very happily exist in an open relationship, or whether the idea of being faithful and monogamous to one person for the rest of your life might just not appeal to you. It’s about finding a balance within your relationship that works for both of you. You can’t be in a relationship where two people are not in the same place with that. Looking at my friendship group, and everyone’s respective situations, the gay community is full of so many different views on monogamy, and the play explores how you come to find that person who is on the same page as you.

Jake Brunger’s Four Play runs February 16 to March 12 at Theatre503 in London. For more information and tickets visit

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