Sunday, 2 October 2011

Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
Drama that deals seriously with prejudice and disease may be all the
rage in mainstream American teen TV these days from Glee to True Blood.
When Bill Russell and Janet Hood's flesh and blood wake for first
generation AIDS victims first appeared at the end of the 1980s, its mix
of schmaltz-laden show-tunes and social comment was considered edgy
enough to become a cause celebre.

More than two decades on, the gospel-tinged ensemble numbers and
overwrought ballads belted out by the nineteen performers onstage in
Paul Harper-Swan and musical director Michael Webborn's new studio
production sound all too X-Factor familiar. The stories they frame,
however, told in a series of rhyming monologues, are a heartfelt and
timely reminder of a world-changing epidemic that may no longer hit the
headlines, but still affects people every day.

Set here around the tables of a celestial cabaret club, the gathered
angels of the show's title may mourn their own deaths, but they
celebrate their lives far more. From the studs, night-owls and crack
whores in search of wisdom through excess, any notion of stereotyping
is quickly countered. A speech written for a little girl born with the
illness is made chilling by the guileless innocence with which it is
delivered. The money-savvy call girl whose life crashes and burns
alongside the recession sounds like an all too current metaphor.
American rhythms and reference points from Vietnam to Greenwich Village
dovetail with more localised inflections to mixed effect. In this
instance it takes Vincent Friell's Glasgow priest to fully bring things
home in a small but still affecting life and death affair.

The Herald, September 29th 2011


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