It always means a great deal when someone recommends something to me. Be it a song, a sandwich or a new way to tie your laces, the fact I am thought of is always appreciated. For that reason, when renowned pessimist and all round problematic fave George recommended Tony Kushner’s Angels In America to me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Angels is an eight hour endurance theatre play, split in two halves, and focusing on AIDS and Reagan in ’80s New York City. You can see why he thought I would dig it. The play is currently enjoying a run at the National Theatre on the South Bank, soon to head to Broadway featuring the same powerful cast; Nathan Lane, Russell Tovey, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Amanda Lawrence and Susan Brown.
I don’t want to give too much away but the phrase “gay fantasia” is apt. There are moments of fabulousness, flamboyance and fun. Then it drags you to the depths of what it means to be human. It’s heart-breaking and thought-provoking and fucking surreal all at once. There are dream sequences where characters disappear to Antarctica, feverish deliriums where characters slip into Hebrew and books on flame rise up on podiums. It cleverly plays with the depth of field and what is possible on a stage. I came away after watching the first half with so many questions whilst being simultaneously in love with every character onstage. The second half only added to my own affection for the story.
If you ever get the opportunity then please go and see this play. Support from Sky Arts has allowed large scale productions like AIA to be shown around the country in cinemas. Later this year both Yerma and Hamlet will be shown in the same way. Sometimes it’s the draw of celebrity that gets people in but the power of theatre is alive and kicking.