Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

There are some musicals which take their basis from real life and transform them into fairy tales. There are others that show the stark reality of life with a compassionate light and this is true of Elegies.

This is one production which is unique, moving and powerful

Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens is a song cycle with music by Janet Hood and lyrics and additional text by Bill Russell. The work features songs and monologues inspired by the NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt and Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. Each of the monologues is written from the perspective of characters who have died from AIDS and the songs represent the feelings of friends and family members dealing with the loss.

The show is particularly reflective of the toll HIV and AIDS took on a generation of Americans; therefore it’s fitting the Skagit Valley College of Seattle, Washington bring this honest and heartrending production to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Utilising a cast that varies in ages, from teenagers to those in their twilight years, director David Alan Morrison has woven an interesting take on the show. It opens with a collection of friends and relatives joining together for a service to remember those they have lost to the disease. It’s in the monologues between the songs that those lost souls reappear to tell their stories of their lives.

Particular highlights include Diane Johnson and JJ Cully’s rendition of the title song, which is delivered with peerless vocals that moved the audience from the off. All the vocalists are of an excellent standard and on the odd occasion where someone forgets a lyric they smooth it over and continue on. Emotionally We Need Heroes is a sparkling jewel in the show as it sums up beautifully those who were brave enough to offer help, love and compassion at the height of the epidemic.

This is one production which is unique, moving and powerful and continues to get across the message of the terrible loss that HIV and AIDS took upon us. Ultimately, with a little love and compassion, we can celebrate those lost lives and look to the future with hope. A worthy addition to anyone’s fringe diary.

Reviews by Brett Herriot

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The Blurb

Described by the author as 'the Spoon River Anthology of AIDS', this powerful piece of theatre was inspired by the Names Project Quilt in 1987. The piece blends monologues based upon the stories of friends and acquaintances with original music and songs. Told in a non-linear, direct address fashion, Elegies combines humour, pathos, irony and music, into a piece that provides an insight to the myriad of personal responses to the early days of the AIDS epidemic.