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.
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