Review: As Is, Trafalgar Studios 2

“You have HIV, you’re not radioactive” 

William M Hoffman’s As Is has the distinction of being the first play to be written about the Aids epidemic but what is more impressive about this production, which comes 30 years after its 1985 New York debut, is that it doesn’t feel a dated period piece. Director Andrew Keates respectfully looks to the past – a memorial wall is provided for audience members to pay tribute to those that have been lost – but firmly anchors us in the present with a wide range of post-show activity exploring the sexual health issues that are still a major part of our world today.

It also helps that Hoffman’s play is really rather well constructed. It may be set in the middle of a New York gay scene slowly coming to terms with its decimation but at its heart, it is a poignant love story. Self-satisfied and sexually voracious, Rich swaggers through the world but as he contracts the disease that is afflicting so many of those around him, his relationships with friends, family and society in general are forcefully redefined. Clinging to devoted ex Saul, it’s a deeply affecting personal odyssey but a defiantly proud one too. Continue reading “Review: As Is, Trafalgar Studios 2”

Review: I Wish To Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide, Finborough

“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Rather than being spoken, this quote – taken from a 1939 speech by Adolf Hitler – is projected onto the rear wall of the Finborough as you enter, setting the tone for this sobering piece of documentary theatre. Neil McPherson’s I Wish To Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide is pulled together from a range of sources – eyewitness accounts and personal testimonies, the worlds of academia and poetry, photographs and music, Cher and Kim Kardashian – to mark the precise centenary of the beginnings of the events that later inspired the coining of the very word ‘genocide’ by Raphael Lemkin.

From the history lecture-like beginnings that cover the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of a Turkish Republic whose rabid nationalism saw them enter the First World War on the sides of the Germans, to the searing pain of an old man reclaiming long-buried memories of being in the middle of a human catastrophe, Tommo Fowler’s production makes no attempt to sugarcoat this particularly bitter pill. The details of the deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians and the desert concentration camps to which they were forced to walk are laid out before us, their story told compassionately but clear-sightedly. Continue reading “Review: I Wish To Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide, Finborough”