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It’s 1985 in New York. Writer Rich is at a crossroads: he’s at the start of his promising career and at the end of his long-term relationship with Saul. But when Rich is diagnosed with AIDS, he leaves his new lover to seek solace in the arms of Saul.
As both the home for the Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement and the American LGBT movement, Greenwich Village has had a huge impact on both theatre and LGBT rights. As Is returns to the Village of the HIV/AIDS era and brings that nexus of queer life to the stage at Edinburgh Fringe to a poignant 80s soundtrack.
Speaking of her work on the show, director Milla Jackson says, ‘I think that the sensitive and considered use of multimedia enhances the audience experience and brings a further dimension to the interpretation of the author’s text. Our use of the “living graffiti wall” gives our audience an opportunity to interact with the subject of the play by designing and writing their responses to the issues as they experience them. Live storytelling has always been the most powerful tool for people to broach subjects difficult to fully understand or talk about. I want people to leave this play talking about HIV/AIDS – not in fear, but wanting to find out more.’
Milla Jackson is a freelance director and producer who studied at University College London. She specialised in ancient drama, and trained at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and with the Factory Theatre. She has directed at Rich Mix, Bread & Roses Theatre, LOST Theatre, Etcetera Theatre, Horse & Stables, New Studio at RCSSD, the Roundhouse and Bloomsbury Theatre, and assisted at Gowanus Arts Centre, and the Factory Theatre with Tim Carroll.
She continues: ‘HIV/AIDS is still a disease with stigma, fear and misconceptions attached to it. In the Western world, it feels like there is a complacency about it – it couldn’t possible happen to me. But it doesn’t just happen to ‘the Other’ – promiscuous gay men, or drug abusers, or people in Africa – and it happens to ‘Me’ too. As Is addresses just that – it happens to white people, it happens to women, it happens to children, it happens to people who work out, it happens to people in relationships, it happens to people in love who are just trying to get on with things. As Is tells a story about real people, and at its heart, it’s a love story and a funny story, with an incredibly important piece of LGBT history underpinning it all.’
As Is is written by New Yorker William M. Hoffman, who started writing for the theatre at the legendary Off-Off-Broadway showcase the Caffe Cino. In 1985 he received critical acclaim for As Is, which earned him a Drama Desk Award in 1986, an Obie, and Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominations for best play.
As Is was also one of Time Magazine‘s ‘Best Plays of the Year’ and was originally produced Off-Broadway by the Circle Repertory Company in 1985, and subsequently transferred to Broadway. It was televised in 1986, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
Written by William M. Hoffman
Directed by Milla Jackson
Produced by Mice On A Beam Theatre Company
Venue: Bedlam Theatre, 11 Bristo Place, Edinburgh EH1 1EZ (Venue 49)
Dates: Previews 5-6 August (£7), 7-30 August (not 17) (£10/£8), 11:30am (90 mins)
Box office: 0131 225 9893
Fringe office: 0131 226 0000