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Published July 29, 2014

Well, this was a sobering play – but also humorous, and sometimes ridiculous. It was a snapshot of different lives, at different times, with different perspectives, all affected by HIV/AIDS and its impact. And, more crucially, STATUS tackles the stigma that comes with having the illness from both members of the LGBT community and the more general public. With a minimalist set, in the beautiful Fairfax Studio in the Arts Centre, and brilliantly acted, STATUS is certainly something to see. Even if you have no understanding of HIV/AIDS or the stigma that comes with it, the play is powerful.

With no central plot or characters, STATUS instead presents many different stories, all from interviews with real people who have AIDS, from a promiscuous gay man to a conventional heterosexual woman. What made the performance particularly poignant are twofold. First, all these little stories are real, and that they were glimpses into the lives of people who suffered under the strain of their illness (and heavily from stigma), or how HIV/AIDS impacted on the people it came into contact with. It brought the play very close to home: the stories were relatable because they were real, and the people the actors represented were real. The second factor was the variety of stories and characters. Most deal with the stigma of having the virus, or the experiences that they had with it. But there are also some funny ones. A particularly absurd anecdote left the audience chuckling, despite the tragedy of the circumstances. This mix of humour and pathos (although most of the performance was sombre and pointed) certainly makes the performance extra powerful.

In regards to having an understanding the LGBT community, HIV/AIDS and the attempts to suppress/cure it, and the stigma associated with AIDS, having a full understanding would naturally add depth to viewing STATUS, it certainly isn’t a prerequisite. It is easy to see the pain, suffering, anger and misery of people who have been touched by HIV/AIDS, and it is very difficult not to be moved by it.

The four actors all conveyed a wide variety of characters, as was to be expected, although a suspect Irish accent was notable. They were all able to convey each story so convincingly that at times it was difficult to tell when character began and actor ended – which is naturally the sign of very talented cast. The minimalist setting was also used to perfection by the director. By having very little in the way of props, there was nothing to distract the audience from the actors and their stories, which further ensured their impact was fully felt.

All in all, a fantastic performance, with moving stories. Well paced and well acted, it really did its job and highlighted the stigma that exists, and has always existed, in regards to HIV/AIDS sufferers. It put human faces on HIV/AIDS, and made a fantastic setting to the 2014 AIDS conference in Melbourne. Well worth the watch.

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