Rather than write a review, with this article I’m focusing on the reasons why Andrew Keates production of William M. Hoffman’s Play As Is is a vital must-see in it’s West End Transfer to Trafalgar Studios 2. It is one of the best pieces of theatre you will have the pleasure and indeed privilege of watching this year (it’s as simple as that).
When an actor has that magic amount of charisma along with skill, well it’s a winning combination to put it mildly. They can make you feel just about every emotion, to the point where you want to watch them continuously portraying the character in front of you. Steven Webb is such an actor, his performance as Rich in this outstanding production of As Is is flawless. It literally feels like Rich is one of your closest friends and his HIV diagnosis and subsequent struggle is impacting your life too. This is rare.
What Director Andrew Keates has created with the production is make you taste and smell New York in 1985, in it’s excess and glamour that the 80’s heyday is synonymous, as well as a contrasting sensitivity. The energy that he brings out of his actors is phenomenal. For example when he had them scattered on the stage saying the names of people whose funerals they had attended as they had succumbed to AIDS was hauntingly beautiful and perfectly set.
The devoted and gentle Saul ( David Poynor) Rich’s ex partner, is a contrast to the exuberant and creative nature of Rich. It is a joy to watch the two sparking off each other, in such a naturally comedic way, that brings the text of Hoffman’s play in to it’s own exquisitely. Poynor and Webb cast together is just spot on, I truly can’t imagine two other actors having better chemistry.
The atmosphere is remarkably heightened by Neil Brinkworth’s lighting design that well and truly deserves a great deal of praise. Whether to emphasise the Frankie Goes to Hollywood vibes inside an 80’s New York Club or to spotlight a hospital bed, it’s masterful and adds something extra to the production.
The ensemble cast are outstanding actors each bringing something unique and authentic to the table. Notably Jane Lowe is dryly funny as the hospice worker, whose stories make you want to weep and laugh in equal measure and Natalie Burt as Rich’s Actress friend is deliciously frivolous and just oozes warmth and charm.
As Is will move you in a way that you feel in the pit of your stomach and depths of your soul. It may have been called the ‘First AIDS Play’ when it was first performed in 1985, but it should also be described as the definitive. HIV and AIDS is as relevant today as it was thirty years ago to which this stunning production is a reminder. If you haven’t already seen this production, it is performing until August 1st 2015 so PLEASE DO!
To book tickets: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/as-is/trafalgar-studios/