Dir. Darren Hardie, Stereo, 25/04
A sofa, a chest of drawers and an old record player; these three pieces of furniture sit on stage, waiting for the actors of Darren Hardie’s Fronting. As soon as David (Conor O’Donnelly) and Will (Chris Duffy) set foot onstage, I am struck by the wonderful chemistry between them. The two men endearingly alternate between awkwardness and playfulness until David suddenly reveals that he has HIV. The dialogue is very real, albeit a little eloquent for a night out, and displays striking humanity, despite the men’s difficulty at finding the right words to address the situation.
Snippets of conversation with other protagonists, sitting on stage as spectators throughout, really stood out. The considerate, pragmatic nurse (Kirsty McAdam), the caring, honest sister (Lauren O’Donnell) and the ex consumed by guilt and remorse (Jamie Young) offered their own perspective and reactions to HIV, creating an extremely engaging, complex net of interactions.
Fronting not only explores the different stigmas linked to HIV, but also deals with loss, forgiveness and family. It is a panorama of human relationships that conveys an extremely powerful message: life goes on. Despite the gravity of David’s condition, he discovers that there is always something worth living for: people who care and will stand by him no matter what happens.
I found this play particularly successful in raising awareness, precisely because HIV became intertwined with so many other issues and themes. Too often does fear of the idea of HIV lead to stigma, the name of the illness becoming more daunting than the symptoms themselves. Fronting drew attention to the seriousness of AIDS, but avoided transforming it into a terrifying myth. It dealt with living life one day at a time, never dismissing HIV, but not allowing it to take over a life that retains infinite possibilities.
With its great cast, crew, Nina Simone’s amazing voice, and a lovely raffle culminating in a bag of condoms, the play raised over 400 pounds for Terrence Higgins Trust; making it an experience I was glad and proud to be part of.