Writer: Shaun Kitchener
Director: James Callas Ball
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
It is very rare to see a play about living with HIV that is equal parts funny, informative and entertaining, but Shaun Kitchener’s new play offers all that and more. The play takes place a year after Benji’s positive diagnosis, and looks at the way the illness, and its perception, impacts his life and relationships. After twelve months of struggling to cope, feeling depressed and isolated, Benji decides it is time to kick start his social life. Supported by his upbeat best friend Nikki, her boyfriend Greg, and sexual health consultant Jennifer, he begins forging new relationships, and attempting to repair old ones.
The script is cleverly written: full of fast paced, witty dialogue and genuine pathos. The characters are all well-rounded and natural, and the story simple but effective, much like the skilful direction. Timothy George gives a strong central performance as Benji, particularly when confronted with sexual situations and the burning question of when to disclose his status. Writer Shaun Kitchener is quirky and likeable as new boyfriend Matt, and Ryan J Brown is a lot of fun as Olly, despite too often playing just for laughs.
The stand-out performances, however, come from the female members of the cast. Nathalie Barclay gives a superbly nuanced performance as Nikki, mixing the poignant and playful with ease. Sally George’s Margo is a delight as Benji’s out-of-her-depth mother, alternately eliciting laughter and tears from the rapt audience. Last, but by no means least, Jamie-Rose Monk is fantastic as Jennifer, wonderfully naturalistic while hitting all the right comedic notes and evincing genuine sympathy.
Playing at the Waterloo East Theatre following a successful run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, Positive is a witty, engaging play about the reality of living with an illness that so many are still woefully ignorant about.
Runs until 1stJune