Written by Timothy Graves, Among Angels is a very powerful and disturbing, sensational and shocking piece of theatre which is totally captivating. Directed with a great confidence by Peter Taylor, the fluidity of the play comes about because Graves has included semi-autobiographical references and his writing style offers an extraordinary insight into his life.
There is a Jarman-esque feel to the piece and certain scenes are lit to such perfection by Jordan Moffatt, that they can be compared to a Caravaggio painting creating a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional.
Graves explores why there is a need for gay men to take drugs? Is it to be more socially acceptable to our peers and contemporaries? The results of being addicted, fantasy blurring with reality, mind games, paranoia are all here – and that funnily enough amongst gay men that there is a drug snobbery. Toffs do cocaine, the peasants take G, Tina, Meth, and become crack heads.
This is a complex piece with Graves drawing on quotes from Shakespeare – Prospero from the Tempest and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – and the scriptures offering a rather sinister view that the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday is a good enough reason to get high.
What makes this play work is the excellence and the formidable performances by the 6-strong cast of male actors who pulsate with a controlled and vibrant, masculine energy that is superb. Their stage chemistry is electric and when they are given the challenge of playing multiple roles, black become white and vice-versa, the tension built within the scenes that involve vivid drug-taking goes through the roof.
Stephen Papaioannou who plays Chris is a school teacher with a reputation and after meeting via a social app, hooks up with Michael Mc.Carthy who then goes to the police and accuses him of rape whilst under the influence of a Class A drug. The play is about the effects of that accusation, the outcome and the consequences. There is a very clever use of the overlap of stories most notably that of Peter played by Christopher Hardcastle which is riveting to watch. Hardcastle also plays Detective Inspector White, but it is as the bigot Peter, an old school leather queen, that he gives such a tour de force.
Stuck in his ways, living out his days in a run down council flat in the East End, and his opinions about other people is that they are worthless scum to be used and abused and thrown away. He is the alpha male top dog and he revels in the fact that he has this power over young men because he gives them drugs for free, so they become dependent on him. Trapped in his world with no way out, Jamie played by a very watchable Kieran Faulkner was one of Peter’s victims and did not survive, and from Heaven visits Chris as an Angel to save him to give him the option to have mind over matter, to seek redemption and safety.
With stunning support by Tommy Papaioannou as Adam and Detective Inspector Black, Andrew Armitage as Angel 1, Matt and the aforementioned Mc.Carthy and lastly Moshen Ghaffari as Angel 2 and Tom, this is ground-breaking theatre that draws attention to issues that some people would prefer did not to exist. That drug culture is on the increase and the current political system attached to social injustice is doomed to fail. This is a heavenly theatrical experience and with a running time of 75 minutes the adrenaline will course through your veins. Mesmerising!