THEATRE REVIEW: Angels in America ★★★★
Angels in America
National Theatre, London
National Theatre, London
Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s two part groundbreaking piece of theatre which premiered back in 1991 in Britain, tells the story of two couples living in the mid 1980s and tackling the stigma of AIDS and sexuality. Though some may see this play as a complex story in reading, this epic 9 hour brand new production lands almost perfectly stable on the ground in the Lyttelton theatre, directed by the wonderful Marianne Elliott.
Casting this production must of been no mean feat when you look at what the production is trying to tackle, so casting Andrew Garfield in the role of Prior may seem confusing to some given his background as a hetrosexual male, but I really must say his performance is undeniably the standout in this production, completely embodying this character who is suffering from AIDS and in a play where most of his scenes see him vision an Angel (Amanda Lawrence), he’s engrossing to watch. This is also the case for his acting partner, James Mcardle, in the role of Louis, Prior’s boyfriend. His journey throughout the production, as an actor and character, is such a joy to watch, as he interacts with Joe Pitt (Russell Tovey), a closeted mormon husband, who puts in an incredible performance in this powerhouse of a cast.
Taking up the only major female role in this production is the utterly brilliant and heartbreakingly perfect Denise Gough, who channels such a powerful presence as Harper Pitt, a mormon wife to Joe, who has to come to terms with her husbands announcement of coming out as a homosexual, but also dealing with Valium-induced hallucinations. She is captivating in the role and watching her struggle to come to terms with what she sees as betrayal from her husband’s revelation is enthralling and a performance like no other I have witnessed this year.
To fully round of this production in terms of casting, Nathan Lane takes on the role of closeted gay lawyer Roy Cohn, and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who portrays Belize, Prior’s ex-boyfriend and bestfriend, who also works as a nurse to Cohn, who is suffering from AIDS though insists is liver cancer to cover up his sexuality. Both put in a strong performance, especially Lane who is compelling to watch as he battles with himself and his struggle to come to terms with his condition.
Ian MacNeil’s set design mixed with Paule Constable’s lighting really delivered though more than I would ever of imagined. When the set at times was stripped back, quite literally early on in the second part of this production in this case, I was astonished by the movement. The outer layer lighting around the rooms stuck out the most to really visualise the surroundings in which scenes were taking place, and MacNeil’s work really came into focus in the last segment of the story where the whole stage was literally bare to create raw performances from the leading cast.
Overall, Angels in America is just as relevant now as it was back in 1991 when first premiered, and I feel completely humbled and honoured to watch this production in its full capacity.