As Is

  • Theatre
  • Drama
Critics' choice
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Trafalgar Studios, Trafalgar Square Until Saturday August 1 2015

After a run at the Finborough Theatre, 'As Is' transfers to Trafalgar Studios in 2015. This review is of the show's 2013 run.

William M Hoffman’s ‘As Is’ was one of the first plays to deal with the Aids crisis when it premiered off-Broadway in 1985. Today, behind a 30-year firewall of awareness campaigns and anti-retroviral drugs, it’s hard to imagine just how terrifying the disease must have been back then, when seemingly healthy men were dropping like flies and, as Hoffman says himself, he had to cross out something close to 100 names from his address book.

The play opens with charismatic young writer Rich leaving his ever-devoted boyfriend, Saul. As the couple bitch over who gets what of the shared possessions, Rich blurts out that he’s been diagnosed with an Aids-related condition.

It’s a death sentence, and the play explores what happens next through a fruit-salad of different off-beat characters, from a couple of leather-capped gays Rich tries to pick up in a nightclub to a middle class housewife he meets in counselling, infected, alienated and six months pregnant.

Both Tom Colley and David Poynor are excellent as the tragedy-bound leads, Rich and Saul. Jordan Bernarde is similarly good as Rich’s brother, a character horribly torn between his love for Rich, his ignorance of this frightening new disease and the pressure heaped on him by his wife to cut all filial ties.

‘As Is’ is a sharp and unsentimental take on the Aids pandemic in its first horrid flush. Filled with eloquent monologues and pitch black humour, it’s a heart-breaking window into the past and, at the same time, this revival poses a very searching question: despite how we kid ourselves, are we really so more enlightened today?

 

Venue name: Trafalgar Studios
Contact:
Address: 14 Whitehall

SW1A 2DY
Transport: Tube: Charing Cross
Price: £17-£27.50

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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Andrea Tierney

The whole gamut of emotions of a gay couple in the midst of a break up is heightened by the admission of one of them that he's Aids positive. As friends and family desert the young man, his gay lover remains loyal to the end. Wonderfully acted lyrical scenes change abruptly into hard hitting ones depicting the atmosphere in gay clubs and bars. The final scene being the hospital, where an Irish nurse with a rough edge to her saintliness gives various accounts of how she and her patients cope during the last stages of illness. Strong supporting characters are the brother of the protagonist, who overcomes his feelings of rejection, reaffirming the bond between them and cousin Lily, desperately trying to make it into films by styling herself as the blonde bombshell.

Andrea Tierney

New York - 1985. 'As Is' is a fast-paced play, energy-laden with six male and two female characters. The whole gamut of emotions of a gay couple in the midst of a break up is heightened by the admission of one of them that he's Aids positive. As friends and family desert the young man, his gay lover remains loyal to the end. Wonderfully acted lyrical scenes change abruptly into hard hitting ones depicting the atmosphere in gay clubs and bars. The final scene being the hospital, where an Irish nurse with a rough edge to her saintliness gives various accounts of how she and her patients cope during the last stages of illness. Strong supporting characters are the brother of the protagonist, who overcomes his feelings of rejection, reaffirming the bond between them and cousin Lily, desperately trying to make it into films by styling herself as the blonde bombshell.