by William M Hoffman.
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 2) 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 1 August 2015.
Mon–Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: William Russell 15 July.
Raging – and laughing – at the dying of the light.
Written in 1985, As Is was the first play to tackle the Aids epidemic which was sweeping through the United States. This production directed by Andrew Keates, first seen at the Finborough Theatre in August 2013 and now substantially recast, has reached the Trafalgar Studios and will go on to the Edinburgh Festival after the run has ended.
It is a moving and powerful piece about two young New Yorkers, Rich (Steven Webb), a writer, and his photographer lover Saul (David Poynor). We meet them at the moment they split and argue over how the contents of their apartment will be divided. Rich has found a younger lover, Chet (Giles Cooper).
But soon we discover Rich is HIV positive and the story moves to the hospice where he is being treated and we learn more about his relations with his family, with Chet and above all with the devoted and loyal Saul.
It is very funny, but it is a case of laughter through tears. The two men, a genuinely odd couple, have tongues as sharp as can be and the former nun, who runs the hospice (Jane Lowe) watches what happens to her patients with a fond, but unjaundiced eye. Laughing in the face of death helps her face death.
The material is in some ways over-familiar because subsequent dramatists have mined the same field and at times one does wish that gay couples, gay men in general, were not so often presented as squabbling queens on stage.
But the laughs make the play bearable to watch, not just a didactic piece about safe sex and the horrors of a disease about which nobody knew anything at the time, which came from nowhere and decimated a generation of men who were living life to the hilt.
Stephen Webb makes the hedonistic Rich genuinely likeable; David Poynor is deeply touching as his loyal, devoted abandoned lover; and Andrew Keates’ beautifully assured direction ensures the juggling of time and place, which could be confusing, works swiftly and effectively.
Hospice Worker: Jane Lowe.
Rich: Steven Webb.
Saul: David Poynor.
Chet: Giles Cooper.
Lily: Natalie Burt.
Brother: Dino Fetcher.
Doctors: Bevan Celestine, Russell Morton.
Director: Andrew Keates.
Designer: Tim McMullen-Wright.
Lighting: Neill Brink worth.
Sound: James Nicholson.
Composer: Matthew Strachan.
Costume: Philippa Bat.