Jason Charles’ new play Counterfeit Skin certainly pulls no punches.

This unsparingly dark presentation of modern gay relationships is filled with shallow, self-serving characters paralysed by their own unhappy existences, and it provides no message of hope at the end of its two and a half hours.

It is tough going at times, and while all the performances are well-executed, one cannot help but feel depressed at the play’s messages – gay men are selfish, gay men are incapable of proper love, gay men are needy, gay men are doomed to unhappiness.

It may not have been Charles’ intention to portray gay life as so unremittingly negative, but from the middle-aged man who shacks up with a money-grabbing rent boy to the twenty-something couple trapped in a sexless relationship, there is little to smile about.

Production designer Aaron Marsden makes the most of the small performance space, which at times feels uncomfortably close to the audience, especially during the bondage scene.

Yes, bondage and emotional torture are all part of the mix.

Former AS IF star James Kristian acquits himself well in the role of Jake, but it is Jonathan Laury’s peformance as his put-upon boyfriend Luke that lingers in the mind.

Counterfeit Skin is playing at the Courtyard Theatre, 40 Pitfield Street, London N1 until 10th February 2008.

Tickets cost £12 or £15 and can be bought from seetickets.com or by calling 0870 1630717.

Performances start at 7:30pm. No Monday performances.