Review of The HIV Monologues at the Ace Hotel

The HIV Monologues (c) Eliza Goroya

The HIV Monologues (c) Eliza Goroya

The HIV Monologues is a poignant and as theme-affirming as you would expect but unfortunately, stand-alone, lacks the punch of productions similar to it, such as William M. Hoffman’s As Is. This play follows through the crossing lives of four individuals; Alex (a struggling actor who lands a role in a play regarding HIV), Nick (Alex’s one-off Tinder date, recently diagnosed HIV Positive), Barney (the HIV-positive playwright to which Alex plays in) and Irene (an NHS Nurse who’s helped HIV/AIDS patients since the outbreak in the 80s). All these characters have their own story to tell and with this, makes this play something worth acknowledging.

We meet Alex (Denholm Spurr) going to meet Nick (Kane Surry) on a Tinder date and soon it is revealed Nick, his date in question, has recently diagnosed HIV-Positive. Alex freaks out and the date ends abruptly. Following this, Alex finds himself auditioning for a play where the playwright, Barney (Jonathan Blake), is HIV-Positive. Barney’s nurse, Irene (Charly Flyte), also gives her thoughts and shares her stories on helping with the disease since the 80s to now.

The cast have great chemistry and keep the attention of their audience. What can be awful about a show created with monologues is that it can sometimes be very aware to an audience that it’s just a series of monologues – but the cast are engaging with their stories throughout. The HIV Monologues can currently be seen at the ACE Hotel in Shoreditch. Writer, Patrick Cash manages to flow the stories well and gives the audience a multi-dimensional look at its characters, all inspiring and also flawed in their own ways – we are able to understand all their intentions and sympathise at times. Their drives are displayed clearly and can make those unaware of the LGBT Culture and the HIV/AIDS stigma a lot more informed without throwing it in their faces. Luke Davies’ direction is calm and subtle, leaving the actors a lot of freedom. The criticism is that the play, for the most part, is all on one-level – you come out feeling the same way you did when you came in. However, being a gay man, LGBT advocate, writer and performer in my own right, I can admit that this may not be the case for people outside of this spectrum.

This play has seen the attention of many foundations and community charities such as The Terrence Higgins Trust and rightfully so, but after seeing its audience and reading its acclaimed reception, I can see the play as ‘reciting to the choir’ and not even exactly preaching.

By putting this play on tour, perhaps putting it in GCSE/A-Level schools and even workplaces, The HIV Monologues could help even further with getting rid of the stigma that comes with the being HIV-Positive and educating on PEP/PrEP and the whole situation nowadays which, in an after-show discussion, was one of the main problems charities and the NHS are having now with dealing with their cases.

The HIV Monologues may not hit as hard as it hopes, but from its successful run last year and this revival, I hope for more venues on a national scale.

3 and a half stars

Review by Elliott Jordan

After a critically acclaimed launch at the end of 2016, Dragonflies Theatre’s new production returns in 2017, exploring HIV amongst gay men through a series of interwoven stories. Writer Patrick Cash and director Luke Davies continue their work, including show The Clinic and The Chemsex Monologues, in bringing important queer stories to the UK stage with The HIV Monologues, which stars inspiration for the film Pride and one of the first people to diagnosed with HIV in the UK Jonathan Blake.

Alex knows nothing about HIV but knew he should have worn the power bottom singlet. Nick is his Tinder date who’s just been diagnosed positive, struggling with self-worth. Their date is going amazingly until Nick discloses his diagnosis… And Alex reacts in the worst way. Through meeting Irene, an Irish nurse who treated AIDS in the 1980s, and Barney, who was saved by the 1996 medication, Alex gets on PrEP, but will he be able to win Nick back?

The HIV Monologues
Writer Patrick Cash
Director Luke Davies
Producer Dragonflies Theatre and Theatre Bench

Cast Jonathan Blake, Kane Surry, Denholm Spurr, Charly Flyte
Performance Dates February 2nd 2017 – February 19th 2017
Running Time 70 mins
Ace Hotel, 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ

The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre – Review

The Glass MenagerieThe Glass Menagerie is a memory play, says the narrator, Tom Wingfield, at the beginning. He knows what’s going to happen. He tells us it will be the arrival of that long-delayed something we live for.

The set glows, the impression is of warmth and welcome although it’s the small interior of an impoverished 1930s apartment in St Louis where Tom lives with his mother and sister. The apartment is entered by means of a fire escape, which stretches way up into the dark, as if it’s a ladder to the stars.

Which is a metaphor for something else this play is about. The ways in which people’s minds may reach in isolation for their own secret dreams and illusions while daily sharing physical places. A woman requires a man as a financial necessity in these times.

Tom, played by Michael Esper, works in a warehouse in a job he detests while longing to be a writer. He’s been obliged to take on the financial responsibility for his mother, Amanda and fragile sister, Laura, because his father has long ago wandered off into irresponsibility, to explore the world. As Tom wishes to, as Tom knows he will, looking back on the events he’s describing in the play. He’s the bad son of a bad man, he says.

Cherry Jones played Amanda in director, John Tiffany’s original production of the play which opened on Broadway to considerable acclaim. Her appearance in this role at the Duke of York’s Theatre marks her West End debut where Miss Jones is commanding as the great stage character that is Amanda Wingfield. A woman who attempts to control her adult children while they evade her, just as their father did, Amanda is desperate to ensure the family’s continued survival by whatever means she must, dealing with her straightened circumstances with bravado and dash, sometimes delusion. Her melodramatic propensity for bragging about the supposed glory days of her youth makes her appear ridiculous at first.

But it is Amanda’s inner world of the delight of reminiscence, whether embellished or not, which carries through the difficulties of her impoverished, disappointing present. As she ruminates about other lives she might have enjoyed, if only she had not fallen in love with the man she did. As she tells her daughter to wish for happiness and a little luck.

Tom and his mother explore their relationship in the first act, bound together in place but isolated from one another in strident frustration and resistance. He fights with his mother to claim his identity as she fights the same old desperate battles she must once have fought with his father, seeking to make him stay.

It is Laura, played by Kate O’Flynn, who brings beautiful nuance and delicacy to this family and also to this production. She slips into Tom’s memory of the family sitting room through the back of the sofa. She’s a delicate, crippled girl, who thinks little of herself, aware she is strange, not like other girls. For Laura is by inclination solitary, visiting the penguins at the zoo daily while pretending to be at college. She also has a collection of ornamental glass animals, one of which is a unicorn, she loves to play with. When Laura’s alone, as she engages with this tiny menagerie, many small lights reflect in the water pools surrounding the hexagonal petals on which the set sits. It’s a beautiful, moving representation of the world of the imagination.

Laura is forced by her mother to participate in a meeting with her brother’s friend from work, played by Brian J Smith. Hilariously, Amanda welcomes this Gentleman Caller to her home in the Southern Belle style dress she was wearing when she first met her no-good husband, and proceeds to flirt with him.

It is however when Amanda and Tom have left the stage to Laura and her Gentleman Caller that magic happens. What is conjured up between the pair of them is the creation of a memory sufficiently tender to haunt them both for the rest of their lives.

Brian J. Smith and Kate O’Flynn work perfectly together, his masculinity, her femininity, their characters different natures complementing one another as they open up sufficiently to one another to discover they are able to share and marvel at each other’s inner worlds. How they shine, these two as they do that.

Go. It’s a wonderful, unforgettable production.

4 Stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

Time is the longest distance between two places.

Following a multi-Tony Award-nominated run on Broadway, Oliver and Tony Award-winning director John Tiffany (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two, Let the Right One In, Black Watch) revives his visionary staging of Tennessee Williams’ heart-rending masterpiece about a family struggling to survive on hopes and dreams.

A domineering mother. A daughter lost in a world of her own. A son desperate to leave. Former Southern Belle Amanda Wingfield, played by Tony Award-winning Broadway icon Cherry Jones, enlists the help of son Tom (Michael Esper) to find a husband for her fragile daughter Laura (Kate O’Flynn). But will the long-awaited ‘gentleman caller’ (Brian J. Smith) fulfil or shatter the family’s delicate dreams?

A universally acclaimed creative team bring 1930’s St Louis stylishly to life. With movement by Olivier Award-winning Steven Hoggett, Set and Costume Design by multi Tony Award-winner Bob Crowley, Lighting Design by multi Tony Award-winner Natasha Katz, Sound Design from Olivier and Tony Award-winning Paul Arditti and Music by celebrated composer Nico Muhly, this is a stunning and evocative production of Tennessee Williams’ heart-breaking classic.

The Glass Menagerie
Duke of York’s Theatre
45 St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG
Book Tickets for The Glass Menagerie

  • Running Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Show Opened: 26th January 2017
  • Booking Until: 29th April 2017

    Book Tickets for London West End at www.londontheatre1.com