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Review: Beirut, at Park Studio

Courageous performances in poignant play set in futuristic New York where those with sexually transmitted diseases are branded with a P for ‘Positive’

21 June, 2018 — By Lucy Popescu

Louisa Connolly-Burnham in Beirut. Photo: Loranc Sparsi

IN Alan Bowne’s blistering one-act drama, set in New York in the near future, sex with the wrong person is a capital crime.

After testing positive for a sexually transmitted disease, Torch (Robert Rees) is quarantined in a squalid, humid room (beautifully realised by Liz Ascroft) in a ghetto referred to as “Beirut”.

Branded on his buttock with a P for “Positive”, Torch is carefully monitored and forbidden from coming into contact with any “Negatives”.

His girlfriend, Blue (Louisa Connolly-Burnham), breaches the quarantine line to be with him. Despite the risk to herself, she tries to persuade Torch to sleep with her, claiming: “I can live without sex and feel dead or risk death and feel alive.”

Torch tries to keep her at arm’s length but Blue is determined. The disease is never named, but Beirut premiered in 1987 and Bowne is clearly writing about Aids. He died from complications related to Aids a couple of years later.

Torch and Blue talk of sex, rarely of love, and yet we are meant to believe that it is the latter that binds them together. Rees and Burnham spend most of the time half naked and give courageous performances.

But Bowne’s play, while poignant, keeps the same dramatic register and this palls after a while.

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