Eight young people sit in a row facing the audience. The guy on our far left tells his brief story of how he was told that he was HIV positive. The girl next to him then tells her story – but it does not just go on like this. We move to the very androgynous guy far right. The cast of five boys and three girls tell a variety of stories and some jokes; some get up and interact. They are a young cast who bring a lot of emotion to some of the scenes. A large variety of reactions and feelings about their status and how they should behave are aired. A death is mourned.
The format is deeply American, school of “Kennedy’s Children”, but not that deep. It is supposed to “explore the reality of HIV in 2011”, but it explores only a limited field because no one gets to say enough to develop as a character and be more than the briefest case study. It deals essentially with first reactions and forms of defensiveness, but hardly compares with the complexity of living and relating of positive people I know, nor does it treat the subject with the depth some people were treating it to twenty years ago. In some ways the show feels really 80s!
But, despite that, the young cast perform with enthusiasm – the strident Jack(Scott Cocks), the witty Marie(Rachael Solomon), the passionate Steve(Kane Nicholls),the put-upon and conflicted Liz (Charise Sullivan), and the so vulnerably enthusiastic Pete (Matthew Ryan) – (an individualised story that could maybe be developed as a separate play) – deserve special mention. The cast clearly had a strong effect on the audience, and if the watchers did not know a lot about the subject and learned from the show that is extremely valuableat any time.