Stemming from Names Project Aids Memorial Quilt and Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, this show made its breakthrough on the popular stage in the Late 80’s at the height of the Aids epidemic that robbed the world of a generation of people.
The Lincoln Company bring their take on the song cycle featuring songs and monologues. Every monologue is written from the perspective of a character who has died from AIDS and the songs represent the feelings of friends and family members dealing with the loss.
This is a powerful and emotional production that the cast deliver with a deep sense of compassion and understanding on the toll that AIDS took on humanity, both at the time of writing and today. Despite it no longer being a death sentence to have HIV or AIDS, the stigmatisation and discrimination of a positive diagnosis is sadly still much in evidence.
Clever and inventive direction sees the actors joining the audience waiting for the show to start, creating a calm, open atmosphere and one which is friendly and allows the audience to be receptive to what that are about see.
The various monologues mix together pathos, heart rending emotion and at times some excellently executed comedy. The selection of songs are wonderful; although the show is slightly trimmed to get it into its 55 minute time slot, they have chosen the best of the songs on offer. Particular highlights include ‘Heroes All Around’ and ‘My Brother Lived In San Francisco’. The singers individually are very good, but when they join together for four part harmonies there are few pitchy notes and one or two bum notes. If these can be corrected it will improve the show. The music for the show is all pre taped which given the size of space they are performing in its understandable, though live piano accompaniment would again lift the production to a whole other level.
What is on offer is both beautiful and humbling; its understated direction makes the conclusion of the show all the more powerful. The enthusiasm of the cast had the audience joining in at the end to celebrate that no matter what, life is for living. Moreover we have to thank those that continue to fight the battle against HIV and AIDS and it’s thanks to productions like this that the message stays in the public agenda.
This is truly a production with heart and compassion and a truly worthy addition to anyone’s Fringe Diary, so check it out.