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As Is by William M Hoffman The First AIDS Play

As IsAfter a sell-out run at the Finborough Theatre in 2013, William M. Hoffman’s As Is now transfers to Trafalgar Studios with a stunning new cast and design. Using humour and sensitivity, As Is shatters the apathy and ignorance surrounding AIDS in the 1980s. Celebrating its 30th anniversary since first opening in New York, where it was hailed by critics as the most powerful play of the year, the significance and urgency of As Is has become even greater as more people than ever before are contracting HIV.

Steven Webb (House of Boys, The Inbetweeners, Betwixt) and David Poynor (The Tempest, Peter Pan, As Is) lead this stellar cast, reunited after appearing together in The History Boys at the Royal National Theatre in 2006/07.

Other cast members include Dino Fetscher from the hit Channel 4/E4 LGBT series’ Banana and Cucumber, Jane Lowe who is possibly best known for playing the wrongly convicted Monica Lindsay in the first season of ITV’s Bad Girls (Spooks, Jekyll and Hyde, Medea), Giles Cooper from the Blockbuster film PridTe (Henry V, After the Dance, The Knight of the Burning Pestle), Natalie Burt from Channel 4’s Scrotal Recall and the hugely popular BBC series Blandings, Russell Morton (Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, Piaf, Bent), and Bevan Celestine (I Wish To Die Singing, Lonely Londoners, Empires).

This production provides a vital platform to learn from the past and be informed by the present. There will be a vast array of wrap-around activity including offering rapid HIV testing in partnership with 56 Dean Street Sexual Health Clinic to all those who attend the production along with debates, Q&As and education seminars with eminent speakers exploring subjects concerning those affected by HIV and AIDS. These events are held in partnership with organisations such as the Make A Difference Trust, Terrence Higgins Trust and other notable charities.

Multi-award winning director and HIV/AIDS campaigner Andrew Keates comments, “When I first directed As Is there were three reasons why I wanted to mount a production of this extraordinary play. Firstly, because it is an authentic immediate response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Secondly, to honour all of those who were lost to AIDS during those impossible times and, lastly, because if as a result of seeing As Is even one person was inspired to get tested for HIV and discovered they were positive then they could receive the vital treatment they needed. I had never dreamed that person would be me (as I spoke about for the MAD Trust at last year’s West End Eurovision). Since my diagnosis as HIV+ it has become my life’s work using the arts to educate and inspire those who may be too frightened to learn the facts and history about HIV and AIDS.

New York City, 1985. Rich (Steven Webb), a young writer who is beginning to find success, is breaking up with his longtime lover, Saul (David Poynor), a professional photographer. However, Rich’s idyll with his new lover is short-lived when he learns that he has contracted the terrifying new disease AIDS and he returns to Saul for sanctuary as he awaits its slow and awful progress.

In a mosaic of brilliantly conceived short scenes, blending humour, poignance and dazzling theatricality, As Is captures the pathos of Rich’s relationship with friends and family, the cold impersonality of the doctors and nurses who care for him and the widely diverse aspects of New York’s gay community. This is a heartbreaking and unsparing examination of a deeply felt human relationship shattered by a mindless, destructive disease.

The production features a dynamic new design by Tim McQuillen-Wright (Carrie – The Musical, Let It Be), a specially commissioned musical score by multi-award winning composer Matthew Strachan (Homefront, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, About Bill), costume design by Philippa Batt (Dessa Rose, The A to Z of Mrs P, Passing By) and Tobias Fairclough, and lighting design by Neill Brinkworth (Dessa Rose, Accolade and Fair).

As Is was the winner of the Obie and Drama Desk Awards, one of Time Magazine’s ‘Best Plays of the Year’ and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. It 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.

On Monday 15th June, ACT UP London are doing a giant selfie photocall against Nigel Farage’s HIV-phobic remarks in Trafalgar Square, inviting HIV+ and HIV- migrants, their friends, family and allies to attend a joyful protest. This peaceful photocall pays tribute to the founders of the gay liberation movement and HIV activism. HIV+ and HIV- migrants and leading figures from within the gay liberation movement and HIV activism will speak.

As Is by William H. Hoffman
Wednesday 1st July – Saturday 1st August 2015
Monday to Saturday, 7.45pm
Thursday and Saturday matinees, 3pm
Running time Approximately 70 minutes with no interval
Trafalgar Studio 2, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY

Tuesday 9th June 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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