In the late Eighties, when Elegies was developed by Bill Russell and Janet Hood, AIDS was a relatively new virus that we knew little about. Thirty years later, we may understand the severity of the effects of HIV and AIDS, but still campaigns to raise awareness continue. Inside Out’s production of the Broadway hit signifies the importance of the arts in doing so.
The show – which is comprised of a series of monologues and songs – reflects the feelings and emotions of those who have died, and those left behind from the virus. Inside Out’s production will run for six performances in Glasgow, two of those will star Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Edward Reid as deceased drag-queen Roscoe.
Earlier this month, the Health Protection Agency reported that almost 70,000 people were receiving HIV treatment at the end of 2010 – an increase of 6% from 2009; art that promotes awareness of the virus is hardly irrelevant. Inspired by the NAMES Project Quilt and Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, Elegies features rock, pop and gospel music and over 30 poems. It takes a personal and intimate approach to the subject matter; it’s modular structure giving a sense of the number and diversity of those affected by the virus. Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and the Tony-award winning Rent are two greater known pieces of theatre that brought media attention to the subject in the late eighties and early nineties. Could Elegies be the revival that the naughties needs? It might just be.