Inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt this song cycle is a patchwork of monologues and musical numbers written from the perspective of characters who have died from illnesses as a result of AIDS. Originally developed in the late 1980s the cycle has had various professional outings and this particular production by Language Laid Bare marks the 20th anniversary of the original London production at the King’s Head Theatre.
A scene from Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at The Space, London Photo: Bettina Strenske
The power of Elegies lies in the simplicity of its structure, and thankfully Joseph C Walsh’s production plays to this strength. The small but perfectly formed auditorium of The Space bursts with the energy and excitement of a friendly nightclub and cast members dance to disco tunes as the audience take their seats. Walsh’s direction ensures a steady pace throughout and while deeply engaging, some of these touching monologues could merit further exploration in terms of delivery and stress. The Space’s acoustics occasionally play havoc with the sound balance but numbers such as Celebrate, Spend It While You Can and the title number Angels, Punks And Raging Queens are delivered with clarity, passion and a sense of commitment by the large cast.
It is difficult with an ensemble company to pinpoint individual performances but Justine Marie Mead and Helen Hart’s playful vocal theatrics were fun and perfectly in context with the relaxed atmosphere of the piece and Mead’s rendition of the ballad My Brother Lived In San Francisco remains an emotional highlight.