What is it like to live with an HIV positive diagnosis in today’s world? With the advances in medication being what they are, is it really that difficult? West Avenue Theatre Company bring a play to the Fringe which explores that very idea.
Following the story of Benji (Will Marsh), an openly gay young guy coming to terms with his status and looking for love and Nikki (Nathalie Barclay) who has tested positive following a working holiday in Africa. The story shines a light on many of the falsehoods and inaccuracies surrounding this diseases, doing so with a wry sense of humour. At no point is this a preachy lecture on safe sex but more a chance to open your heart and try to understand the real pain of living with the virus.
The seven-strong cast deliver a performance full of conviction and make the characters totally believable. You can feel Benji’s frustration at his mother (Lorna Baillie) for being so unwilling to understand - after all, she grew up in a world where it wasn't even legal to be gay. It’s a testament to the cast’s abilities that you feel comfortable laughing at jokes about a very serious situation, the humour is well placed and executed perfectly.
The arrival of Matt (Shaun Kitchener) really puts the play into high gear; he is an actor that exudes charm and a calm understanding. Although he is shocked that Benji couldn’t bring himself to tell him of his status, seeing Matt look beyond the virus and realise love is all that matters is a truly moving moment to watch.
Further credit also goes to Kitchener as he has written a sharp, witty, intelligent and above all caring script, dealing with a subject matter that when it does appear on the social agenda is usually performed as a death sentence that tears families apart. While this is often sadly true, it’s a welcome change to see the other side of the story for once and Positive does this with style and grace.
There’s excellent direction from Rob Ellis and the cast use the small space well, working hard to create the scene changes with as little fuss and time passing as possible. With honest, heartfelt performances all round, this is a truly satisfying piece of theatre and one which will have life far beyond the end of the Fringe. Well done West Avenue Theatre Company for giving us a more Positive outlook for HIV.