Angels In America audaciously combines the epic with the intimate and real life with fictional characters. Joseph (Will Matthews), a devout Mormon reluctantly accepts his sexuality and destroys his marriage to Harper (Caroline Read). His mentor, devious lawyer Roy Cohn (director Terence Mann), faces the consequences of his past actions – both political and sexual. Prior Walter (Alexander Atherton) is stricken by AIDS, abandoned by his lover and experiences apocalyptic visions.
The loss of innocence, abandonment by lovers and by God, how we define ourselves and the need to cope with change are heavy themes to address on a limited budget. Director Mann delivers a bare, stark production – literally dark as the stage is swamped in shadows. As well as concealing scene changes this creates an unsettling and apprehensive atmosphere inhibiting much of the humour in the play. This imbalance between drama and comedy makes the play gloomier than is strictly necessary.
Mann makes Cohn an urbane predator but shies away from his truly vicious nature. Matthews skilfully reveals that Joseph’s air of innocence is actually one of self – deception. Read’s blessed-out Harper is an excellent oracle and the desperation in the scenes between the husband and wife is palpable. Less successful are those between Prior and his lover as Atherton is soft-spoken to the point of inaudibility.
Deadline Theatre and Motion Loco demonstrate that limited funds need not prevent companies from presenting ambitious works even if the outcome is not what one might expect.
- Dave Cunningham