Rapids – Project Arts Centre – Review
Talking Shop Ensemble & Shaun Dunne Present Rapids –
Dates: 07 Feb – 09 Feb – Show Time: 7.45pm
The production opens with Shaun Dunne talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a certain episode in season two where Buffy finally tells her mother that she is a slayer. It’s hard for her mother to believe at first but Buffy starts to discuss the facts her mother has been ignoring. The blood on her clothes and the late night escapades. In truth, it’s something her mother has been choosing not to see for a long time! This scene is used to illustrate a moment of disclosure, telling a loved one a fact that is difficult for them to accept. It’s also something that those living with HIV face into regularly.
This is a production by the Talking Shop Ensemble along with Shaun Dunne which discusses HIV and Aids in Ireland today. It’s based on a series of interviews which took place between 2012 and 2015 with people suffering from HIV. It discusses the reactions they received when they told people about their illness, some positive and some very negative. It seems strange that over 30 years since the illness became common knowledge that people still don’t know the basic facts about how it is contracted and spread.
There are three actors on stage (Shaun Dunne, Eva Jane Gaffney and Lauren Larkin) and they play out various short scenes. These are the experiences of those with HIV and show the stigma attached to the illness. The extracts from the interviews are short vignettes showing experiences such as the time they first discovered they had the illness and the fear that comes with it. They also re-enacted different moments of disclosure to friends and family, along with discussing the fear of being ‘found out’ in the workplace or beyond.
The stage is stripped bare with strong spotlights on either side of the stage. There are also three TV screens at the back of the set which shows various images associated with HIV. These include ad campaigns from the 80s, famous celebrities who told the world they had HIV and a variety of other images.
The play was first staged in the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2017, and even in this short time much has changed, such as the prevalence of Prep. There may be a case for updating the work to take into account more recent issues as it is a constantly evolving situation.
While the prognosis for those living with HIV and Aids has drastically changed since the 80s, the stigma associated with the disease hasn’t followed suit. The production shows moments that are hard to fathom and are clear evidence of the ignorance that still exists about the illness. Using the words of those living with the disease creates an intimacy with the audience, you start to see it first hand and think about what such a diagnosis could mean to your own life. These are real experiences and the truth in their words is impossible to ignore. It’s a touching and worthwhile production that will make you see the world through someone else’s eyes.