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"Angels in America", the time of AIDS

Dernière mise à jour : 24 juil. 2020

"Angels in America" is a portrait of the melting pot society and AIDS exclusion.


Love to death in the AIDS years in New York through minimalist, fluid and iconic gestures.


The Angel of History kisses the dying man.

The Lausanne-based choreographer Philippe Saire's first production, bathed in great physicality and haunted by movements that seem to come from the unconscious of the characters in Angels in America (1991), a choral, kaleidoscopic and epic piece that earned the American Tony Kushner the Pulitzer Prize.


Games of mirrors


Between Shakespeare and Cornelius, the play reveals a taste for the play of mirrors and the theatre of illusions and baroque appearances, mise en abyme, dreams or hallucinations. It takes us through history, the end of the Cold War and the biblical myths of redemption. Written a few years after the Chernobyl disaster and in the wake of the historic fall of State Socialism - the two distinct parts are The Millennium is approaching and Perestroika the plot follows two couples in a cinematic alternating montage.


One is homosexual, the other is Mormon with repressed gay and marries under valium - the astonished Joëlle Fontannaz in weightlessness. But it is above all the trajectory of rich New York lawyer Roy Cohn (Roland Gervet, tense and cynical) that intrigues. The latter is in the 70s, the defender and legal adviser of Donald Trump. Before Kushner imagines him being treated in his terminal hours for AIDS by an African-American transgender nurse (Jonathan Axel Gomis, perfect).


Sexual and economic predator


Thanks to his relations, he benefited from the then pioneering treatment of AZT against AIDS, which at the time was inaccessible due to its exorbitant price to the general public. Anti-communism and ambition combined to make this sexual and financial predatory lawyer, anti-Semitic and homophobic Jew, the éminence grise of Republican Senator MacCarthy. He was the one who attacked the left-wing husbands and activists Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, accused of spying for the USSR and sent to the electric chair on 19 June 1953.


Reduced to two hours, the staging cannot pretend - and this is not its purpose - to the magnitude and cracked poetry emanating from the versions of beautiful memory. Thus that of Brigitte Jacques at the Comédie de Genève in 1994. Or Krzysztof Warlikowski's beautiful homage to the comedy of manners, which expresses well the feeling of revolt towards republican America (Festival d'Avignon, 2007).


From one pandemic to another


From Reagan to Trump, the same obsession with "American greatness", and the all-out fight against communism. For three decades, AIDS activists have accused Republican President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) of having been totally indifferent at the beginning of the epidemic and castigated his deplorable inaction.


Tony Kushner's play is a reminder of some burning realities. There is still no medical cure for HIV. Today President-candidate Donald Trump is trying to downplay the coronavirus crisis. But the AIDS epidemic, what it reveals socially, economically and culturally, is being re-exposed in other ways and forms with the spread of the coronavirus. The latter pandemic is undermining public freedoms and essential solidarity, while at the same time rekindling the worst millenarian and anti-migration fears. Everything that Kushner had imagined.


Bertrand Tappolet




Artist's website: www.philippesaire.ch

#TonyKushner #AngelsInAmerica #PhilippeSaire

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