Promisingly, two handsome young men, Will and David, fall into the latter’s flat together, hands all over one another. Gleefully full of the drink, things seem headed in one direction, until David puts pause to Will’s advances in definitive fashion: he has HIV.
While this would leave some men legging it, instead Will stays to discuss the implications of David’s confession at length: why it happened, how he’s coping, how his family have reacted. Their conversations are punctured by vignettes of David talking with the the other important players in his life. This includes the nurse who doesn’t understand why he doesn’t want to go on antivirals, the sister that’s cross he was stupid enough to catch the virus, the ex that gave him the disease by being unfaithful during the course of their relationship. If that sounds like a great deal of talking, it is.
An ‘issue’ play with a capital I, Fronting suffers from having a protagonist in search of a personality – beyond the anger at his HIV diagnosis, David doesn’t have the sense of acting like a living, breathing human being. He’s a public service announcement in theatrical form. He and Will sink back wine at a rate that would leave most elephants comatose and proceed to touch on every possible gay concern they can (and with surprising salience for drunk people). The topics thy discuss include being a gay Catholic, how they came out and what protection they use. It can be delicious to witness two people divulge themselves to one another, and drift into love, but in this instance their monologues feel more like a carrier for playwright Darren Hardie’s preoccupations than two people wrapped up in the push and pull of wooing.
Those preoccupations are noble and the play is tender, and reflective, but sadly there’s no hook to invest in the live’s of the pair on stage. Its sincerity is touching, its message relatable and clear. But Fronting lacks the narrative drive to push it into truly arresting theatre.