Directed by Andrew Keates
Trafalgar Studios (London)
William M Hoffman’s ‘As Is’ is a powerful show that follows a young man in 1980s New York as he is diagnosed with HIV. It’s known as the first AIDS play, and this production celebrates its 30th anniversary. The show’s handling of its topic is at times hard hitting, with some emotionally raw performances from all of the cast, many of whom perform with watery eyed despair throughout the show.
At 70 minutes without an interval, there is welcome relief with some excellent comedy, particularly from Jane Lowe’s Irish ex-nun who recounts tales from the hospital bedside in her self-confessed day job of ‘saint’.
The central relationship is a complex one, handled touchingly by Stephen Webb and David Poynor who fling between unrequited love, dependence and sexual abandonment naturally.
The show doesn’t stay still for too long either. Director Andrew Keates uses the ensemble throughout the show to keep a high pace. The play opens with the whole company on stage, adding physicality and energy to the opening dialogue.
There are moments of devastatingly raw emotion, and these contrast sharply with the crude camp comedy that is squeezed in between. I was greatly moved by a hospital bed scene between two brothers.
As the company take you back to the 1980s complete with authentic moustaches, discussing ‘the combination of quiche and leather’, they simultaneously remind us of how far we’ve come in the fight against HIV and AIDS and also how far, with an estimated 34 million people living with it around the world, there still is to go.
‘As Is’ runs at Trafalgar Studios until 1st August 2015, for booking visit their website: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/as-is/trafalgar-studios/
(C) Dan Farrell 2015
Dan is company director of Studio Film School, a filmmaking workshop company that works to help people make their own films. He is also chairman of trustees at Drunken Chorus, who create new performance work in outreach settings. He is currently working on a new short film festival, Fright Flicks 2015, as well as in pre-production of a short film project.