Angels on the South Bank: A Diary of a Two-Play Day

I kept a diary during the Angels in America two-play day on the 29/4/17, the first two-play day of this production. No spoilers, no analysis, just my immediate reactions in the moment.


11:02 – It’s today! It’s today! Genuinely feels a bit like Christmas. THREE AND A HALF DAMN YEARS I’ve waited to see this. I’m attempting to walk a line between being ridiculously excited and managing my expectations. Worst case scenario today: I see a terrible production of Angels in America, which still involves me seeing Angels in America. Anything good about it is a bonus. And I’ve waited a long time to get to see it, period. AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH.

12:34 – Curtain goes up at one. The theatre feels like there’s electricity charging through it, and this time its not because of the staticky carpets at the Nash. There’s 900 people that are genuinely excited to be here. I have to keep stopping myself from grinning like a madman. Currently drinking coffee and trying to empty my head. I do want to interrogate the production but not to such an extent that I can’t enjoy the storytelling in the moment. I don’t remember the last time I was so excited to go into and auditorium. Side note: the programmes are gorgeous.

14:07 – (Millennium Interval One.) Holy crap. Ohhhhhhhh my God. I’ve never seen an actor capture an audience as quickly as Nathan Lane just did. It was instantaneous, I’m not sure how he did it, a combination of voice, characterisation and presence I presume, but it was like watching lightning strike or something. The same could be said of this whole ensemble to be fair, they can all command an audience with what looks like no effort at all. I was reminded that I live in a world where Denise Gough acts on stage which is an AMAZING WORLD TO LIVE IN. I’m fairly certain I’m watching the whole thing with a stupid grin on my face, and I’m on the front row so it’s not like they can’t see me, but I suspect the actors are a bit too busy to look at the doofus on the front row.

15:21 – (Millennium Interval Two.) I’d forgotten how act two started. The second the curtain went up I remembered… The realism or rather literalism of the production makes it tough to watch, as it should be. But God this play is funny, and then Kushner just punches you in the gut. This production seemed to be after something close to realism but that’s getting blurred. I think the carpet’ about to be pulled from under us. These actors are really good. I mean, I knew that anyway, but there’s not a single weak link. That last scene was still quite something. I’ve just got this sense of profound something in my gut. I think it might be gratitude and I want to smack myself. Thank you for not fucking this up for me, universe. For once, I’ve said that completely without sarcasm. Who knew I was capable of such things.

16:45 – (After Millennium.) I think the girl next to me made it through two bars of Moon River before bursting into tears. I was right about the carpet, it’s been well and truly pulled. Marianne Elliott can piss right off with her brilliance. This production anticipates everything, and then dodges. It’s so confident. It’s so strange to emerge from that into the light. I think I’ve also had an eyebrow burnt off.

18:39 – (Before Perestroika.) I’ve eaten, so hopefully my stomach won’t rumble for the 4hrs 10mins or whatever of Perestroika. I’m being a bit more reserved about this one. It’s certainly the more unpredictable and unwieldy of the two plays, and I’m not sure how much Kushner has rewritten. There was certainly a chunk of Millennium that was new to me, and I sort-of know Angels back to front. The energy’s surging again. Nothing in the auditorium has cooled down, no lull; the audience is still hot and ready to carry on riding the rollercoaster. I’m using a horrendous amount of metaphors and similes today.

20:34 – (Perestroika Interval One.) Lesson learnt. I need to stop underestimating this production. Every time something feels like it might get tired, it’s whisked away. At first all I could notice were the changes in the text (and there are considerable changes) but that’s stopped now. And OH MY GOD I have an understanding of the Diorama scene now. I’ve never understood it, but now I’ve seen it in performance, I get the wit and the strangeness of it. That whole second act… I wondered when it was announced why exactly they had an ensemble but now I get it. The obvious solutions are not good enough for Elliott. It’s an act of imagination, one that relies on stage magic. You basically get three different Elliott shows in one (well, two.)

22:01 – (Perestroika Interval Two.) It feels weirdly experimental, is what I’m trying to get at. A lot of these ideas are suggested in the text, but Elliott has filtered it through her own sensibility. More and more realism is being stripped away, as befits the text. I can’t believe it’s already been three hours, and six and a half in total. I’m not even pissed off by the Lyttleton seats. I could very easily watch the whole thing again immediately, although those poor actors are probably shattered.

23:22 – (Aftermath.) Was swallowing very hard by the end. Girl next to me went again. Prior’s last speech is a killer. And the roar of the audience at the curtain call… Gough and McArdle looked a bit taken aback, Garfield muttered ‘Fucking hell…’ For a play that has such a bittersweet ending, there’s a euphoria to it. I’m going to mourn for this one. What a privilege to be there. Now I need to think. And probably have a glass of wine. Or maybe just the cheap rum we’ve got in the kitchen.


I will be writing about the production (probably to an extent that I think is interesting but everyone else will be bored witless by, because if you haven’t noticed by now that I am completely obsessed with Angels…) but I wanted to get my thoughts about the experience out there asap. I loved it. I can’t wait for everyone else to see it, because I so want to talk about it with people.


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