Rise Like A Phoenix – Above the Stag

IMG_0355Above the Stag are the only professional, full time, LGBT theatre in the country. They produce a mixture of hard-hitting plays and fluffy camp musicals. Rise Like a Phoenix is certainly not fluffy, it is a serious comedy drama telling the story of five young men who have all recently been diagnosed with the HIV virus. 

Hector is having a party and awaiting the arrival of his ex-boyfriend Alan who is bringing his new boyfriend to meet him. His houseboy Gucci is flitting around the home in his gold hot pants, preparing food and drinks for the soirée. Hectors friend Pippin pops by, distraught after the man he was seeing walked out on him at the interval of Wicked after finding out he was HIV positive. As the evening gets going, secrets start to unravel and lustful liaisons take place, but where will it all end?

Conleth Kane is hilarious at the camp, musical obsessed Pippin who goes to the theatre to forget about his illness instead of facing his fears and accepting his life. He plays this type of role with ease and it would be nice to see him take on a more serious role to showcase his full ability. Reed Stokes plays cross-dressing Hector well and has a likeableness about him. Jonny Dickens is easy on the eye as Eddie but has a stiffness to his acting performance which made his character hard to identify with. It is Dimtrios Raptidis who steals the show as the south american rent-boy Gucci. His mannerisms and demeanour are perfect for the role and along with Conleth Kane, make this show worth seeing. Set design by Zoe Hurwitz is well worth a mention here, with pictures of gay icons like Madonna, Cher and Judy Garland plastered all over the walls, giving a homely feel to the show.

Rise Like A Phoenix is a good night out at the theatre, although the storyline is slightly weak and fails to have a huge impact. There is a nice balance between the comedy and the serious subject matter but would have been nice if it were a little more gritty.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

Photo credit: Derek Drescher

Rise Like A Phoenix is playing at Above The Stag Theatre until 3 May 2015