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Aputheatre began life as the Aids Positive Underground Theatre Company at the Sussex AIDS Centre and Helpline, and was founded by John Roman Baker and Rod Evan to provide a cultural response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The company was quick to establish a reputation for hard-hitting queer drama and as a result controversy often accompanied the company's performances. Surprisingly, there was even opposition at the Sussex AIDS Centre and Helpline, which at the time was attempting a mainstream reinvention to secure funding and considered the work too gay and controversial.
Crying Celibate Tears was first performed at the Sussex AIDS Centre and Helpline on the 22 May 1989 as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, and was the only Aputheatre play to be staged there. It was directed by Geoffrey Coleman, and had the following cast –
Eric – Andrew St. John
David – Tom Sharpstone
Jeff – Nigel Greenhalgh
Keith - Graham White
Aside - Geoffrey Coleman was a regular customer of mine at the time and two Gardners Café chairs were borrowed to dress the set.
The Ice Pick was first performed on 21 May 1990 at the Marlborough Theatre as part of the Brighton Festival. The production was awarded the Zap Award for best theatre jointly with the Satyricon Theatre of Moscow. It was directed by Robert Snell, and had the following cast –
Michael – Mark Laville
Peter – Nigel Fairs
Michael’s father – Ted Dawson
Adam – Stephen Israel
Tim – Stephen Israel
Eric – Stephen Israel
Man at party – Ted Dawson
Freedom to Party was first performed on 14 May 1991 at the Marlborough Theatre as part of the Brighton Festival. The play was directed by Paul Hodson and had the following cast.
Mark – Clive Perrott
Simon – Nick Miles
Alex – Dino G Houtas
Paul - Simon Casson
The three plays gained national and international recognition when they were performed, and in 1992 they were presented together for the first time as part of Brighton Lesbian & Gay Pride and the Brighton Festival.
‘Men behave with both courage and barbarism during a war. AIDS is the war of the recent past, present and future. If AIDS is a war, then Brighton is a town on the frontline with the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS outside of London. In human terms that amounts to widespread physical and emotional devastation. Our gay community continues to be the hardest hit of all, and our fight is not only against the virus but also against the day-to-day fascism of prejudice and complacency.
We must be alert to those around us who are experiencing distress because of our avoidance of AIDS. This can be in the workplace where people are discriminated against because of their HIV status, but equally in our bars, clubs and social environment. But above all we must be vigilant against the prejudice within ourselves.’ – John Roman Baker, 1992.
‘A significant breakthrough in AIDS theatre’ – Plays & Players, 1989 (Crying Celibate Tears).
‘Guaranteed to outrage the bigots! – Derek Jarman, 1991 (The Ice Pick).
‘Takes the audience into uncharted emotional territory’ – New Statesman & Society, 1991 (The Ice Pick).