National Theatre: The Normal Heart
- Credit: Helen Maybanks
One can imagine the political urgency of this play on its debut in 1985 - when Reagan and much of the world were still ignoring the mounting deaths from AIDS.
By then activist Larry Kramer had been fighting for resources and recognition of a disease that was decimating his community for nearly four years. This is his outpouring of anger and frustration that at times feels like an animated set of confrontations - a vital pulse take of New York's gay community as they face a mortal threat in the teeth of widespread indifference.
But it's a testament to his scything humour, passionate arguments, and Dominic Cooke's taut revival - staged in the round on Vicki Mortimer's minimal set - that it still feels engrossing and raw.
Ben Daniels', wealthy Ned Weekes, is an opinionated 'loud mouth', who buts up against media, and City Hall homophobia as well as resistance from a community that only recently earned the right to love freely, and don't want to be told to stop having sex.
Between seeking help from Liz Carr's caustic Doctor Brookner, setting up helplines, slagging off the Mayor, and fronting up his lawyer brother about acceptance, he falls in love with New York Times journalist Felix.
You may also want to watch:
Fear stalks and divides this oppressed community, who live in a deeply hostile environment where they can't come out to colleagues or support 'gay causes' without being fired. Ned's sometimes one-note tirades - against the apathy of a promiscuous gay culture - are countered by quieter moments; confessions of the fight for self worth, of hard won struggles, and losing friends and lovers.
If references to conspiracy theories, quarantining the sick and rubber-suited removal of infected bodies feel all too contemporary, this was a play written for a certain time and purpose.
- 1 'Let's save The Victoria pub in Highgate'
- 2 Hundreds gather on Primrose Hill to mourn Nicole Hurley
- 3 Primrose Hill candlelight vigil to celebrate life of Nicole Hurley
- 4 Kentish Town teen creates football team to 'bring community together'
- 5 Hundreds arrested after police crackdown on county lines
- 6 Hampstead Miss Universe GB finalist champions mixed-heritage representation
- 7 Koko to return with extra venues and community spaces for musicians
- 8 Guilty: Kentish Town man convicted of murdering Jack Ampadu
- 9 Former pupils launch creative fund to honour inspirational teacher
- 10 Man charged with murder of Nicole Hurley in Primrose Hill
There is none of the liberated joy of recent TV series It's A Sin, or the lyrical imagination of Tony Kushner's later Angels In America, but Kushner's emotional restraint finally gives way to the pity of it all as Luke Norris' banker Bruce shatteringly recounts his lover's final hours, and Ned and Felix have a bittersweet union on a hospital bed.