Shaun Kitchener – an alumni of the Royal Court’s Young Writers’ Programme – both writes and stars in Positive, his first full-length play, which deals with HIV in sometimes painful detail. But it is not a tragedy, and nobody dies. Now the virus is no longer necessarily a death sentence, Positive flips the expected script, and instead examines the day-to-day difficulty of living.
It follows Benji (Timothy George), a young Britney Spears superfan who is one year into his HIV diagnosis, and depressed. He’s not on his own though. In a breath of fresh air for theatre, his flatmate Nikki (Nathalie Barclay) is also wrangling with her own HIV status.
There is limitless humour in ignorance and misunderstanding, and Kitchener, in his script and his character, mines both to the play’s fullest advantage. But there is drama too, and plenty of it, and with an expert touch director Harry Burton coaxes unbearable tension out of the smallest actions.
A fantastic cast bolsters what is already a hugely likeable experience, bringing energy and pathos to idiosyncratic characters who could become caricatures in less capable hands. In fact, the only drawback is the staging in the round which, while visually engaging, means the audience will never see every arched eyebrow, and every tear.
With his water-tight script, Kitchener has crafted something akin to an exceptional sitcom, conducting the audience to gasp, laugh, groan and cheer in all the right places. Much like its protagonists, this play’s life will go on.
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