Monday, 20 May 2019

REVIEW: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the Union Theatre



Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens tells the story of lots of different characters who have lived with HIV and have passed away from AIDS. Each character has a quilt square to contribute to the ‘Names Project AIDs Memorial Quilt’ and along the way we get an insight into the characters lives.

This is not a musical, it is not a play, it is not poetry, it is not a song cycle. Its none of these things but all of them at the same time. What every LGTBQ+ piece of theatre has tried to achieve in the past 10 years, this play does with no problems. 

What is stunning and so important about this story is that it is not strictly a LGBTQ+ story, of course there are those elements to it and it is important for this community to have a piece like this, but this particular story calls out to every single person on this earth.

There is a sense of unity within the cast and creatives, everything just slots together like a jigsaw puzzle. The cast have a passion and need to tell this story which means they’re pouring everything they have into this piece. This show is seamless, I’m not sure where everybody’s jobs started or finished which to me says that this was a perfectly assembled team.

Bryan Hodgson pulls out the raw and fresh guts of the story and moulds it into something beautiful and needful. He has crafted a show that is precise and faultless but still allows you to breathe and really take everything in. 

What I found astonishing about this is that the choreography aspects of production, by Adam Haigh, slipped in and out without anyone noticing. The movement was so necessary and important to the story telling and concept that we didn’t even notice what was natural movement and what was choreography, this is the sign of someone who knows how to aid the story telling of a piece with his craft. 

The score was wonderfully played by MD Henry Brennan and cellist Pippa Mason, the simplicity of the piece was enhanced by the sounds of just a piano and a cello, it complemented the show wonderfully and also gave a much more intimate feel to the performance. Brennan, who also did the sound design for the show, also made a choice to not have any microphones on the actors. This was a really nice touch as it still filled the space but still gave us the raw emotion of the performers vocals and didn’t detract away from any production value.

I’ve seen a lot of Justin Williams (set design) before and I’m a huge fan of his designs but there was something really special about this show and his work on it, so simple but nothing cheap about it. It was classy and with the help of Alex Musgrave who has achieved a National Theatre quality lighting design in this space its just beautiful to watch. 

The cast that Adam Braham has pulled together are just outstanding, as an ensemble they just make this work. Its very rare I have something to say about everyone in the show, but I do! However I cannot put it in this review because it would be far too long! Every single one of the performers on that stage showed so much love and need for this story, they were genuine and truthful and I fell in love with every single one of their stories and characters. 

The cast highlights for me would be Jackie Pulford who gave such attention and care into her performance that I couldn’t stop watching her, Aidan Harkins who performed his monologue so beautifully and really warmed my heart, Paige Fenlon who showed such great control in every aspect of her performance and Ailsa Davidson who’s solo number was built up through out the entire piece and she played it with such subtlety that it was stunning. 

I have chosen a few of my top moments from the cast, but as I said each one of them were beautiful and I was amazed at the quality of performance I saw on that stage that evening. 

This is a show people need to see; on top of that you’ve got creatives and actors who are so eager to tell this story that you can’t help but feel like this is such important piece that needs to be seen by so many more people. 

This show is about celebrating life in every form but it reminds us that we must care for each other, a message I think is pretty vital right now. 

This has to be one of the best things I’ve ever seen and I implore you to see this show because you will not regret it. 

I hope this show has more life after this run at the Union Theatre and I’m sure this won’t be your only chance to see this production but you need to go and buy a ticket now otherwise you’ve missed one of the theatrical highlights of 2019. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Unallocated seating | Price of Ticket: £22
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