After a critically acclaimed launch at the end of 2016, Dragonflies Theatre’s new production returns in 2017, exploring HIV amongst gay men through a series of interwoven stories. Writer Patrick Cash and director Luke Davies continue their work, including show The Clinic and The Chemsex Monologues, in bringing important queer stories to the UK stage with The HIV Monologues, which stars inspiration for the film Pride and one of the first people to diagnosed with HIV in the UK, Jonathan Blake.
Here’s an exclusive interview with Patrick:
Hi Patrick, thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it
The HIV Monologues explores HIV amongst gay men from AIDS of the 1980s to PrEP of the modern day. It interweaves between time periods, interconnecting stories and characters. It was inspired by stories of the 1980s, when the queer community went to extraordinary lengths to compassionately care for their ill friends. I juxtaposed this against HIV stigma today. But ultimately, it’s a tale of connection, as two struggling men learn intimacy from history.
Was it easy to put it all down on paper?
Mostly, the characters within the play flowed relatively smoothly onto the page. However I am very much aware when writing about HIV and self-worth, I am tackling very personal, delicate subjects. I felt it was important to illustrate the ludicrousness of stigma, but to create that character without him verging on two-dimensional villainy was a complex process. And I was born in 1987, so writing about the 1980s I had to do extensive research for accuracy.
Is it translating well from page to stage?
Yes, thankfully! We’ve performed the play around London before returning to Ace Hotel in Shoreditch for this long run. We’ve gained good, approving reactions from all our audiences, which has been a massive relief for me as a writer. But of course, it’s not just the writing that creates the play. Director Luke Davies draws out nuanced, emotionally true performances from our fantastic cast: Denholm Spurr, Charly Flyte, Kane Surry and Jonathan Blake.
How is the space lending itself to the piece?
Miranda London is a beautiful theatre space. It’s hidden away beneath the glittering Ace Hotel, a freelancer paradise, and usually plays host to club nights at the weekends. We first used it as a theatre space with The HIV Monologues last November so it’s fitting to return there for this three-week run. It’s large, spacious but capable of providing a sense of intimacy between performer and audience. Perfect for a personal play with themes on a large scale.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?
Ideally a greater sense of empathy for what makes us human. I know that sounds particularly grandiose, but I suppose why I write is to reach that emotional connection that lies beneath all our external divisions, whether it be nationality, race, sexuality or HIV status. Within the gay community, a minority group who know stigma from homophobia, it seems absurd that we are passing on that stigma. But the play is written to resonate with anybody through love.
Finally, any advice for budding writers?
You have to make your own break. The enduring myth of a cigar-chomping producer who’s going to materialise, whip up your unsolicited script and make you into a writing star, is exactly that: a myth. If you truly believe in your work, get it out there and in front of people. Through teaming up with my director mate Luke and doing this, I now have two plays published by Oberon Books and a brilliant agent. But you have to make it happen.
Thanks so much to Patrick for an insightful interview, we wish you every success with the run.