Pros: The excellent collaboration of creatives have created something visually stunning and brave on a topic that needs greater awareness.
Cons: Some of the dialogue is a little unimaginative and cliché. If you’re looking for a more traditional production with characters and a plot then affection isn’t for you.
There are quite literally hundreds of performance venues scattered across London. Some are ginormous buildings with imposing Victorian columns and marble lions, others are not so grand. Yet some smaller, slightly scruffier theatres have just as much, if not more, charm than those larger venues. This is especially true of The Glory, a quaint and slightly eerie performance space in happening Haggerston.
A regular haunt for the LGBTQ community, The Glory, which is also a pub, plays host to a whole range of creative activities from film screenings to cabaret, quizzes to live music. Outbox Theatre has taken over The Glory in September in order to perform their new show affection, a piece that highlights the issue of HIV in the gay community.
Written by Jodi Gray and directed by Ben Buratta, affection has been cleverly pieced together in a way that moves the audience both emotionally and physically, creating a real sense of what it is like to live with HIV. The show begins with a line-up of bare-chested men stood against a projection of what I think are blood cells. They wriggle and wretch, creating a powerful image of what is happening inside the body and mind of an HIV-positive man. Later, someone moans and groans in pain as he is lifted and dragged across the empty stage. Integrated between the sections of physical theatre are short scenes of dialogue, some performed in a naturalistic manner, others abstractly. We see a club scene where a man divulges his ‘status’ to his pick-up, the happenings of the morning after the night before, a rejecting lover, an accepting lover and a visit from the past. A scene in which Conor Gormally and Rebecca Crankshaw discuss penning a eulogy is particularly moving and Barry Fitzgerald gives us some needed comic relief by flashing his legs in a beautiful silk kimono.
Starring seven men and one woman, affection is certainly not shy of good performances, with each actor throwing their all into every scene. The cast’s performances are accentuated by the brilliant stage design (Harry Whitham), with sound, lighting (Zoe J Spurr) and projection absolutely spot on. Throughout we are treated to a montage of images, carefully created by Iain Syme, projecting close ups of skin, cells and body parts. Dominic Kennedy’s sound design also fits perfectly and is somewhat spellbinding.
Buratta and movement director Coral Messam have created something quite special by visually and aurally informing the audience of what it is like to live with HIV and the destruction the virus can cause physically, mentally and socially. There are some scenes that come across as slightly cliché and stereotypical, and a couple of the stories told seem very similar, but on the whole we are presented with a very honest and brave account of the effects of HIV.
For someone who has never seen this type of theatre, affection will certainly be an eye-opening experience. For those that love performance art, this is definitely one to attend and for those looking to hear the voices of people with HIV, affection is a must see.
Author: Jodi Gray
Director: Ben Buratta
Producer: Outbox Theatre
Booking Link: http://www.theglory.co/events/
Booking Until: 24 September 2016