It’s not every day you walk into a theatre and are seated around a toilet seat, but here we are. Blowhole is the latest show that was performed in Soho Theatre in London, following the tale of “him”.
Like me, you’re probably curious as to who ‘”he” is. In a way, “he” represents many queer men who are just about getting by in a big city like London. But like many of us, he’s guilty of late-night creeping on dating apps.
Whether it’s Tinder, or in this instance, Grindr, the show did not fail to highlight the often misunderstood and sometimes, mistold accounts of those who seek companionship online. Written and performed by Benjamin Salmon, Blowhole has undoubtedly underlined deeper taboo topics in the LGBTQ+ community: coming out to your family, dealing with rejection and self-hatred and coping with life without a father figure.
*Reader discretion is advised! There are mentions of sensitive topics below.
A set you’ve definitely seen before
Coming into the theatre room, I was pleasantly surprised to find a load of, well, junk. The floorboard was a ring of pink extravagance, and had all sorts of familiar items scattered around; wrapping paper, disco ball, wine bottles, party goods, you name it!
It felt relatable in a way – it’s definitely what my room looks like when getting ready for a night out.
The stage felt intimate and Salmon set up a good vibe as the audience were loving the mature humour throughout the show. The opening line was hilarious. It started with him picking up a microphone from a toilet seat, saying: “You look like a really dirty slut!”
Safe to say it eased the audience into what was to become a rollercoaster of a show. Salmon demonstrates what it’s like to deal with your typical stuck-up acquaintances, whether it’s gluten-free preacher Lawrence or Nick the Prick and his “crisp, pink shirt from House of Fraser.”
What I particularly liked was how we saw his hidden life in between the reality of trying to cope with work, drug-frenzies and orgy-centred parties. The stage would turn red when he’d receive a Grindr notification, indeed preparing us for a whole lot of dick talk and plenty of nudes! My personal favourite was ‘Barry from Grindr’ and his obsession with his “beautiful, hairy hole”.
Taboo topics that can’t be ignored
Of course, the desire to delve into the world of dating doesn’t come without its downsides. The show didn’t shy away from exposing the essence of trying to find oneself while also trying to find “the one”.
Salmon presents a topic that is important and in fact, many of us are acquainted with: rejection. We see his relationship with a man called Mark unfold. From finding out about his love through an uncomfortable conversation with Auntie Val and his mother, to confessing emotions over dinner and dealing with voicemails and the heartache of yearning for what could’ve been. As the audience is immersed in the chatter of the restaurant and the slow, melancholy tune, we are reminded of the moral here: that love can indeed change someone.
Needless to say, Salmon’s character development is a reminder to everyone going through the inevitable “mid-life crisis” in their twenties. I felt that even the use of drugs depicted a much darker truth – that burning desire to fit in with people who see you as weird, whilst feeling like an outcast yourself.
I must say, I didn’t expect to tear up whilst watching the show either. Although I found myself laughing out loud, Salmon’s ability to recreate a heartwarming family tape solely through monologue is absolutely commendable. Throughout the entirety of the show, we observe snippets of his longing for his father, hidden through dark humour; “I wish I was like Great Uncle Malcolm, dead.”
The stage went blue as Salmon picks up the microphone and engulfs us into his memory. The audience go still, and the room feels even smaller as we hear flashbacks of a child laughing, his father cheering him on and his mother chuckling. Here Salmon demonstrates the reality of running away from his problems, and the impact it has on him as he navigates through his adult life. He urges his mother, “promise me you won’t die, mum, for a really long time.” Healing one’s own inner child is often overlooked in our adult lives, and Salmon once again doesn’t fail to establish this.
He finally sits down with himself and says “I can’t be asked to hate myself anymore.” It is notable that Salmon chooses to highlight many crucial aspects of adulthood through dating. After making many self-sabotaging jokes, that are painfully relatable, he finds happiness in the final scene as we accompany him on his journey to achieving a successful date.
Don’t miss out on his work!
In an interview with London World, Benjamin Salmon states: “I’m not interested in perfect human beings, I’m interested in people who are flawed, who are messy in all sorts of ways which is really exciting.” He has provided us with an insight into the world of being queer, lonely and promiscuous in London-town.
From laughing till your abs hurt to wiping away tears, Blowhole has done it all. I must also give honourable mention to the Billie Piper remark – “I must shag a Tory MP.” For the whole duration of the show, it felt like being on FaceTime with that one funny friend who has absolutely no filter. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed into a frisky dating scene from another’s perspective and will be keeping an eye out for Salmon’s next shows.