Survival is central to the first part of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”. This can be seen in the consideration of the fight to survive illness and addiction but also by asking how far you would go to make a relationship survive or to survive oppression. As well as survival, themes of morality, religion and politics remain essential to the play and are used as tools for character development.
As mentioned in the pre-show interview with its director, Marianne Elliott, the play moves from domesticity to magical realism due to the hallucinations experienced by several of the characters which become more overwhelming as the play progresses.
Rooted in 1985 New York during the AIDS epidemic, the harsh reality of each character’s situation is evident and is kept in mind through the use of three side-by-side mini sets so even as the play moves from one character to another, their set remains darkened but still visible. The neon lights bordering each set give an almost magical aura but initially act as barriers between characters before falling away and allowing characters to cross them.
The entire cast give incredible performances that portray characters vividly and in a way so that no matter their moral or political stance the audience still builds a connection with them. However two actors in particular captivate the audience, Denise Gough as Harper Pitt, a Valium addicted Mormon housewife, and Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter, a charismatic AIDS sufferer. Both characters act as bridges between fantasy and reality and their one scene together was charming and captured the attention and imagination of the entire audience.
As a whole, Angels in America is a stunning political portrait that remains extremely relevant today due to its discussions of American politics and the changing identity of America. It is an emotional roller-coaster that will keep you on the edge of your seat and I will definitely be seeing the second part.
National Theatre Live: Angels in America
Part 1:Millennium Approaches
20th July 2017
Gwyn Hall, Neath
Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes with two 15-minute intervals
Author: Tony Kushner
Director: Marianne Elliott
Design: Ian MacNeil (Set Designer), Nicky Gillibrand (Costume Designer), Paule Constable(Lighting Designer), Robby Graham (Choreographer and Movement), Adrian Sutton (Music), Ian Dickinson (Sound Designer), Finn Caldwell (Puppetry Director and Movement), Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes (Puppet Designers), Chris Fisher (Illusions), Gwen Hales (Aerial Director), Harry Mackrill (Associate Director), Miranda Cromwell (Staff Director)
Cast: Susan Brown, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Nathan Lane, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Russell Tovey, Stuart Angell, Laura Caldow, Claire Lambert, Becky Namgauds, Stan West, Lewis Wilkins