Outbox Theatre is dedicated to creating devised pieces that give a voice to forgotten or unheard stories from the LGBT community. The company consists of a range of LGBT performers and its latest work, Affection, examines the confusion and prejudices within the community on the subject of intimacy and HIV.
Affection consists of a mix of dramatic scenes, punctuated with moments of physical theatre, set against a projected, undulating sea of flesh in motion designed by Iain Syme. The stark, rapid movement that open the piece, spreads through the company slowly, and what initially looks awkward, painful and faintly mechanical gradually morphs into something coherent and rhythmic. Coral Messam’s mesmeric choreography grows bolder and more dynamic with each scene until gradually it fully inhabits the small studio space.
The dramatic scenes are no less imaginative, addressing issues of gender, intimacy and misunderstanding that occur when living with HIV. In one raw, painful scene Rebecca Crankshaw attempts to eradicate any hint of homosexuality from her son’s funeral, as his mourning lover rehearses the eulogy. It’s a tiny moment of theatre that packs a massive emotional punch, thanks to Jodi Gray’s subtle script, Ben Buratta’s sensitive direction and two wholly involved performances.
Amid the accusations and hang-ups there is a sense of emotional growth however. Affection doesn’t offer any answers, but it is honest, stylish and re-opens an important conversation about HIV. Outbox may be a relatively young company but the clarity of its theatrical voice combined with its community roots make it an important one.