RISE LIKE A PHOENIX
by Paul Emelion Daly.
Above the Stag Theatre Arch 17 Miles Street SW8 1RZ To 3 May 2015.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
Review: William Russell 10 April.
A thing of shreds and patches.
Above the Stag Theatre has a pretty good track record with its plays, but whatever tempted it to stage this dire comedy about five young men living with HIV beggars belief. The subject matter is fine, but the way it is handled makes one wonder whether anybody involved has ever seen My Night With Reg, the best British play about Aids to date.
Times have changed since Kevin Elyot wrote Reg, and there is arguably room for something new about living with, as opposed to dying from, but this mish-mash of bits of plot from other sources is not it.
Why Hector – hosting a dinner party for three friends, Alan, his ex-lover, butch Eddie, Alan’s new partner, and Pippin, a musical mad Irishman – chooses to dress in drag for the occasion is another mystery, as is the amount of booze these young men, living on drugs to sustain their lives, consume.
Add a male maidservant called Gucci from Colombia – not from Brazil, which at least is original – in gold lamé hot-pants and a vest, who screams a lot and also works as a masseur of persons with HIV (a condition he too has), and the stale ingredients are complete.
The character is a straight lift from La Cage Aux Folles, and while Dimitrios Raptidis makes the most of the role, diminishing returns rapidly set in. As for Pippin’s musical theatre addiction, the living one’s life through songs from the shows joke was used in the hugely entertaining The Boys Upstairs, which opened the theatre’s current season, to far greater effect.
The cast do what they can, with Conleth Kane as Pippin coming out top of the heap. Things are not helped by designer Zoe Hurwitz, who has created an apartment so tacky no self-respecting queen would be found dead in it. There are admittedly some good lines, and sometimes what characters say hits home, despite the clichés that abound.
The subject matter is worth someone writing a play about – just not this play. Eddie, by the way, is a painter and decorator, which is kind of familiar too.
Gucci: Dimitrios Raptidis.
Hector: Reed Stokes.
Pippin: Conleth Kane.
Alan: Lewis Rae.
Eddie: Jonny Dickens.
Director: Tim McArthur.
Designer: Zoe Hurwitz.
Lighting: Jack Weir.
Sound: Jason Kirk.