★★★★ | Jerker, Kings Head Theatre, London

(C) Nick Rutter

It is the mid-1980s in San Francisco and two men enjoy a sexual relationship on phone sex lines in Jerker at The Kings Head Theatre.

Originally shown in 1986 in Los Angeles, the show involves JR (Tom Joyner) and Bert (Tibu Fortes), chatting on a phone sex line, both lying on separate beds across the stage from each other, scantily dressed as if they were in their own bedrooms. And throughout this 100-minute production they talk dirty talk and bring each other to climax.

But it’s not just a one-off – they both are enjoying their conversations and soon it becomes more than just sexual – they’re developing feelings for each other, and they also reveal their deepest darkest secrets, as well as recent sexual encounters (Bert tells one so vividly it’s exciting not only for him and JR but also for the audience). But it’s at the height of the AIDS scare and both men are living in the city that was considered ‘ground zero.’

Their relationship, however, becomes intense, intimate and personal. However, it’s only a matter of time when AIDS strikes too close to home.

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And it did strike too close to home as the the playwright – Robert Chesley – died in 1990 of complications from AIDS.

Jerker is a relic, a warning sign of that time – of things that were to come. It’s also a memento, and a very sad one at that.

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The original title of this play was:
Jerker or the Helping Hand, A pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in 20 Telephone Calls, Many of them Dirty

Jerker plays at The Kings Head Theatre until 23rd November Book here

About the author: Tim Baros
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.