Wear a condom. For God’s sake wear a condom. There I’ve said it, now I can sleep easier. The show Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens expresses this sentiment much better than I can and condensing it down to a single health warning certainly doesn’t do it justice, but if there’s one message you take from this show it will be the resounding agreement that wearing a condom is a very good idea.
The show itself is a series of mini monologues from victims of AIDS in the late 80s and is inspired by the stories and people behind the AIDS quilt. A cast of twelve multi-role and join together for several musical numbers in a sort of Heaven waiting room, as they tell the story of how their characters died. The show deals with an incredibly emotional subject matter and the variety of characters means that there is a wide spectrum of monologues, from heart wrenching to horrifying, hilarious to touching.
Opening on a “faaaaabulous” party complete with disco balls and drag queens, the show itself is in the round and is rather intimate as cast members sit next to audience members. As an ensemble, the cast work well together and the show flows from monologue to monologue quite seamlessly. The problem is the script is written in rhyme which can sometimes hinder the action. During the particularly emotional speeches the dialogue feels heightened and almost Shakespearean, and when a comedy character comes on, their speech sounds like a funny Wendy Cope poem. But, during the monologues that are meant to express the monotony of being ill, or how a regular Joe copes with the disease it feels stilted and unnatural.
As a whole the cast is tight, but there are a few stand-out performances. Paul Hill switches from a debonair man about town, to a loathsome man purposefully infecting people, with ease and manages to give each of his characters their own styling and pace. Rob Walsh was delicious to watch as the aging queen drinking martinis at his club and I would have liked to see a lot more of him. Karen Moss’s soaring voice set the tone for the whole piece during her opening number and gave each of her characters a little oomph, making her stand out.
Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens certainly had a lot to say and Marc Kelly (director) certainly brought lovely touhes of humour and humanity to the show, but Bill Russell’s script becomes more and more of a hindrance as the show progresses. Similarly Janet Hood’s songs are on the verge of becoming predictable, which is a shame as the cast do such a good job with them. This show certainly explores the range of experiences of AIDS victims, but don’t expect to be humming the songs on the tube home.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens plays at the White Bear Theatre until 2 March 2014