|After This Man Wilde, Christine had the idea of
doing an AIDS play and giving the proceeds to the Terrence Higgins Trust,
an AIDS charity. We were unable to book the same venue, so we decided to
do it in Wokingham. As Wokingham has nowhere suitable for performing,
apart from the local amateur theatre, which is extremely expensive to
hire, it had to be a church hall or somewhere similar. In the end we
booked the Methodist church hall.
What was far harder was to find a play. It sounds easy, but Christine particularly wanted to do a British play. It proved almost impossible to find - My Night With Reg is just about the only one. (There's a play, which Gay Sweatshop did at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, Compromised Immunity, by Andy Kirby, but it didn't seem very suitable). Finally, The Way We Live Now turned up in an anthology; and although it's American, that didn't matter at all.
Susan Sontag originally wrote this piece as a short story, and it was then "arranged" for the stage by Edward Parone. It tells the story of an unnamed man, suffering from an unnamed disease, which is obviously AIDS. The story concentrates, not on him, but on his circle of friends, their reactions and changing feelings, and how the situation of the unseen main character affects the relationships in the group. Although the subject matter is very serious, the piece itself is witty and often extremely funny, as the friends exchange gossip and opinions, support each other, feel used, and bitch.
The staging was very simple, which was fortunate as we had a tiny budget. The five of us, wearing black and white, which seems to be an ARCUS trademark, sat in a row in front of a large banner which had an AIDS ribbon painted on it, and read the story. The banner, incidentally, was being painted during the final rehearsal with hours to go and was still drying during the performance. You can see it in the background to this page.
The audience was small, although it did contain the mayor of Wokingham, whom we had invited, and who was later one of our referees for the Arts Council grant. We felt that we had done something to raise awareness, and felt quite pleased with ourselves.
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Background image by Natalie Carnac
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