Last night saw celebrity-studded West End Eurovision return to the Dominion Theatre for its 7th and final year in support of The Make A Difference (MAD) Trust where Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables jointly won the Winners Trophy. Book of Mormon scooped the Technical Theatre Awards Ident Award. My favourite Ident was Mamma Mia but I did think The Phantom of the Opera would win with their clever Facebook inspired video. Both Les Mis and Mamma Mia were worthy join winners of the main prize, incorporating a plethora of West End Theatre characters in to their performances.
With over 200 performers, West End Eurovision is one of the biggest and most exciting late night events in the West End and, as always, the event was a phenomenal success. But the most profound part of the evening came in a speech given by multi-award winning director Andrew Keates, about his experience directing a revival of the first ever AIDS play, As Is by William M. Hoffman and how this affected his own life:
‘My cast and production team wanted to know why I wanted to do this play. I explained I thought it was a beautiful story of one person reaching out to another and asking them to take to accept them ‘as is’. Secondly, I wanted to respect all those that we had lost, and lastly, I wanted the younger generations (who didn’t live through the horrendous 1980s AIDS epidemic), to be inspired enough to get tested. Then, if one person did find that their status was positive, they could receive treatment in good time. You can imagine my surprise when, after the show, I discovered that actually I was that person. I was HIV+… Anyone who knows me, would know that I have never been anything more than proud of who I am. And why shouldn’t I be? Tonight isn’t about raising money for ‘those with HIV’ but raising money for our friends, colleagues and fellow artists that may fall on hard times. One day that could be me. One day that could be you. In many ways I feel like I am coming out for a second time… The best advice I can give anyone, whether they work in theatre or not, is to get tested, stay safe and not to be ignorant of those of us who are positive. This business is hard enough. Let’s all look after each other.’
Andrew’s bravery and honesty really marked the night like nothing else. What ever people in the industry might think of Andrew as a Director, he should be respected for standing up on stage and raising awareness for the HIV virus.
Celebrity judges – TV and radio personality Graham Norton, X Factor favourite Rylan Clarke, comedy actress Caroline Quentin and Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph – plus host Richard Gauntlett also made the evening a night to remember. Tim McArthur looked radiant on the red carpet, interviewing the star studded attendees and running around the auditorium with a camera man behind him.
The MAD Trust works with the British entertainment industry and its audiences to raise funds to offer care and support to people living with HIV, AIDS and other chronic illnesses, who are unable to work and are facing hardship. To support The MAD Trust all people have to do is text MADT £3 to 70007 to give just £3.