In Conversation With... Edward Reid
Date: 3 September 2011
A celebration of the many lives needlessly lost during the HIV crisis of the 1980s, Inside Out's forthcoming production of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens opens at the Tron at the end of this month. Through its jazz, blues and rock score, Janet Hood and Bill Russell's post-punk reaction tells the lost stories of some thirty individuals who died as a result of contracting AIDS. We spoke to one of its stars, former Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist and local Glasgow boy, Edward Reid.
So… Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens. That's quite a title. What it about?
The play is a living record of how HIV and AIDS affects people from all walks of life. Janet Hood wrote the music and lyrics and Bill Russell wrote the words which hold the whole thing together. The entire thing is told from the perspectives of those who died and its incredible monologues reflect that feeling of loss and unfulfilled potential which categorised the era.
Is it musical? What does it sound like?
Well, it’s more of a musical play. I think that it sounds quite pop, quite gospel, quite soul and features some fantastic music and lyrics. Its music does something to you, lyrically and musically.
Tell us about your favourite song from the piece.
Oh, there are so many wonderful pieces! I love the song “My Brother Lives in San Francisco”. It makes me think of my sisters and of their love of me. I also love “Learning to Let Go”. Again, it's a sad one. Honestly, Elegies is such a terrific show and I am really looking forward to see how the audience react to it. I've listened to the CD for years now and am looking forward to hearing new singers reinterpret its amazing songs.
Who do you play?
I play Rosco, an incredible drag queen who speaks her heart and her mind from beyond the grave. It sounds very spooky but she is a brilliant part to play, sad, strong and inspiring. Playing a dead person allows me to find a new perspective on life. Her monologue shows that every cloud has a silver lining: whatever life throws at us, it's how we handle it that defines us.
What do you think the piece has to offer to modern audiences?
I think that no matter when or where it is set it is relevant. Elegies is a play about people and the disease which has affected them. I suppose that back then AIDS was feared because we knew so little about it. Now that time has moved on, we are all much more aware of it and perhaps not so fearful. Keeping the message alive is crucial. People need to learn to see beyond the illness and to see people first.
Now many of our readers will know you for your semi-final reaching turn on Britain's Got Talent. Is this your first time treading the boards in theatre?
No. I've done several shows before this. I’ve performed mainly in Glasgow and actually trained in musical theatre. I just love musical theatre: it inspires me. This show is a real challenge for any actor. I hope that I can bring to the show the magic and the beauty that it deserves.
You're also involved with A Song, a Sip and a Sandwich, the travelling cabaret bar which regularly plays at the Tron. How different is this?
Elegies is very different, as you can imagine. But A Song, a Sip is an amazing project. It's a very intimate afternoon and we like to make everyone in the audience feel part of it. It's great for me as a performer because I can not only sing some excellent songs but get to learn from the other four performers on stage with me. A guaranteed red hot cast! It can be intense and nerve wracking and we only have a five hour rehearsal period so we all have to be prepared, focused and committed to the experience.
- by Scott Purvis
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