★★★★ | On Tidy Endings / Safe Sex, Tristan Bates Theatre

Whose loss is it anyway? That’s the bone of contention between a gay man and a straight woman who meet to straighten up loose ends following the death of the man they both loved.

The UK premiere of Harvey Fierstein’s one-act, On Tidy Endings, is a sometimes fiercely funny and finally poignant study of how the universal situation of losing a loved one takes on unique new qualities in the context of AIDS.

Another short from Fierstein’s Safe Sex Trilogy, Safe Sex explores a relationship under strain in the early part of the AIDS crisis, with comic effect.

Starring Deena Payne (Emmerdale, Calendar Girls) and CJ de Mooi (Eggheads), On Tidy Endings is a witty and well-written play which is a strong vehicle for Fierstein’s unique brand of irreverent humour with the killer one-liners and feistiness you’d expect from his work. It’s a cunning play, luring the viewer in with gentle humour and mild pathos, only to deliver some discretely timed knockout punches. Safer Sex is a more whimsical piece but still has merit and is entertaining, if slightly absurd in places. Anyone familiar with Torch Song Trilogy will see shades of Arnold in both Ghee, the over dramatic and neurotic partner and Arthur, the bereaved gay lover of Collin.

Anyone who might be home at teatime may be familiar with C J de Mooi (a self-invented name, apparently meaning beautiful one!), the slightly pompous and prissy seeming figure, famous for a dramatic outburst on The Weakest Link and as quiz expert on Eggheads. Having seen him on TV, I was puzzled by the concept of him as a serious actor in the plays but managed to suspend disbelief and was pleasantly surprised. Whilst he’s not going to be winning any BAFTA awards any time soon, he managed to fulfil the roles adequately. Deena Payne and Cole Michaels as his co-stars, give strong and naturalistic performances which offset some of his limitations as a performer.

The wealth of culture which came from the AIDS crisis is a great heritage and one which is well worth continually re-examining and reviving, especially in our more complacent times where HIV prevention is less prominent on the agenda. These two plays are well worth checking out.

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The production supports The Make a Difference Trust which raises money from the entertainment industry to support people living with HIV and AIDS. and those in the entertainment industry facing hardship as a result of living with long term conditions.

The plays run until the 17th of May

Buy tickets here:
http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/safe_sex.asp
Check out The Make a Difference Trust and their work here: http://www.madtrust.org.uk/