We spoke to Directors, Alex Velody and Joe Short, about CUADC's upcoming production of Larry Kramer's 'The Normal Heart'.
Why did you want to direct The Normal Heart?
There is a striking absence of queer and AIDS narratives in mainstream culture and education. Russell T. Davies' It's a Sin's critical and public acclaim, to give one example, is well-deserved, yet also reveals a concerning AIDS-shaped gap in recent history. By staging this during LGBTQ+ History Month, the aim is to keep AIDS in conversation, and dispel the misconception that the crisis is over, when both nationally and globally it looms.
What can the audience expect when seeing this show?
For the audience, The Normal Heart offers a profound learning experience. Written by seminal activist Larry Kramer during the unfolding AIDS crisis, premiering in 1985, it serves as a piece of history itself. The text itself unapologetically captures the rich complexities and difficult conversations of that period in American society, as well as in the queer community itself. Expect to engage with a narrative howling with both anguish and terror, yet with a potent core of love. As Joseph Papp, the original producer of the play Off-Broadway noted, “the element that gives this powerful political play its essence, is love — love holding firm under fire, put to the ultimate test, facing and overcoming our greatest fear.”
Why did you choose to partner with The Terrence Higgings Trust?
The Terrence Higgins Trust is the UK's leading HIV/AIDS and sexual health charity: in particular their goal to eradicate HIV by 2030 is a mission that we resonate with. We admire their tireless work immensely; be it supporting those living with HIV, delivering high-quality preventative schemes or challenging the stigma associated with the virus. Furthermore, their proven track record of championing art as a means to celebrate and platform the queer experience seamlessly aligns with everything we hoped the show would be. Our decision to partner with them was a no-brainer, and an honour.
Although the play primarily focuses on the early 1980s, why do you think it is still so timely today?
Kramer’s The Normal Heart is a timeless tale, simultaneously detailing the harsh realities of the 1980s New York AIDS Crisis, while showing the perpetual danger of apathy and a reluctance to understand. In spite of this, Kramer reminds us of the enduring power of compassion, community and hope: the play’s ethos is applicable across a range of crises and time periods, the recent COVID pandemic a good example. Particularly in looking to LGBTQ+ History Month, as performers and theatre creators we owe a massive debt to the lineage of ardent activists and campaigners who’ve come before us, and in presenting Kramer’s play to a 2024 audience hope to set a hopeful standard, and pose challenging questions, for generations to come. To understand The Normal Heart is to look back, then look forward.
The Normal Heart
Tue 30 January - Saturday 03 February 2024, 7.45PM
Photography by Paul Ashley