Steve and I (somewhat ambitiously) went to see Part 1: Millennium Approaches and Part 2: Perestroika, in a double bill on Saturday 15 June. And it was one of the best theatre productions which I have ever seen. In one of the biggest compliments that a production can get, Steve even managed to stay awake – and interested – for all 7 hours.
Something about the production just clicked. The actors were uniformly great, so much so that it would be difficult to single anyone out for individual praise (although, having said that, Deobia Oparei as Belize/Mr Lies was hilarious and mesmerising at the same time).
The music, lighting and set design didn’t get in the way of the story-telling either. In fact, the decidedly ‘low-fi’ and rather ingenious way that the ‘Angels’ were brought to life in what is a small performing space actually helped – it took away some of the over-the-top fantasticality of the idea of angels appearing in contemporary society. And that, to this atheist at least, was a very good thing.
But as with most good theatre, the strength of Angels in America, and particularly in Part 1: Millennium Approaches, is the writing. Tony Kushner set down some absolutely amazing conversations between the characters. The back-and-forth about racism in America, between Belize and Louis, is still running through my head – and is still near-perfect in its encapsulation of problems of race as they are today (whether that is in the United States or indeed Australia).
The core subject matter of the play – the existential crisis presented by HIV/AIDS, how society responded to that crisis, and how the gay male community in particular was affected – has been the subject of some wonderful ‘art’ in the past 12 months, with Angels in America coming so soon after the brilliant documentaries All the Way Through Evening and How to Survive a Plague.
It is vitally important that we remember that time in our collective recent history, and the people who have been so tragically lost because of that awful virus. And just as important that we continue to work to ensure that it does not continue to claim so many lives now, and into the future.
Anyway, well done Belvoir, and Director Eamon Flack, for what really was a fantastic day – and night – at the theatre.