Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s award-winning epic at National Theatre, describes the impact of Aids on the gay community in San Francisco in the 1970s, and the corresponding inaction of the Reagan administration. It is divided into two parts: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika.
Kushner, writing in anger and compassion, hope and despair, deals with politics, history, sex, racism and religion. His “gay fantasia” has a vast canvas. There are 30 characters: Jews, Mormons, ghosts and angels wander into each other’s dreams and hallucinations. The episodic action sprawls; scenes overlap, interlock and happen concurrently.
The revival is a major event. Marianne Elliott’s impressive production (designed by Ian MacNeil) has an excellent cast. Andrew Garfield’s performance – witty, bitter, frightened, hysterical – is perfect high camp, verbally and physically. He has a great scene when he wrestles with the angel.
Nathan Lane, making an instant comic impact with a series of rapid-fire phone calls, is unexpectedly cast as the ruthless lawyer, Roy Cohn, who refuses to admit his homosexuality. The infamous Cohn was young Donald Trump’s lawyer and adviser.
Director Joe Wright has found an interesting way to stage Bertolt Brecht’s didactic epic The Life of Galileo, about the scientist who clashed with the Vatican over his polemical writings. His mockery of Pope Urban VIII eventually led to Galileo’s being imprisoned and made to retract his statements.
The Young Vic has been turned into a planetarium. There is a circular pit with a catwalk round it. Some of the audience sit on cushions on the floor in the pit. Above them is a dome onto which is projected the night sky, lunar landscape and burning sun.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection