As Is (West End)

asiswebposterBy William M. Hoffman
Trafalgar Studios
1 July – 1 August 2015


After a sell-out run at the Finborough Theatre in 2013, William M. Hoffman’s As Is now transfers to Trafalgar Studios with a stunning new cast and design. Using humour and sensitivity, As Is shatters the apathy and ignorance surrounding AIDS in the 1980s. Celebrating its 30th anniversary since first opening in New York, where it was hailed by critics as the most powerful play of the year, the significance and urgency of As Is has become even greater as more people than ever before are contracting HIV.

This production provides a vital platform to learn from the past and be informed by the present. There will be a vast array of wrap-around activity including being the first West End production to offer rapid HIV testing in partnership with Dean Street Sexual Health Clinic to all those who attend the production along with debates, Q&As and education seminars with eminent speakers exploring subjects concerning those affected by HIV and AIDS including Paul Gambaccini, David Stuart, Dan Glass, Martin Sherman, Jonathan Blake, Sylvia Petretti, Matthew Hodson, Dr Emily Garside and Helen Power MBE. These events are held in partnership with organisations such as the Make A Difference Trust, Terrance Higgins Trust, GMFA and other notable charities.

Multi-award winning director and HIV/AIDS campaigner Andrew Keates comments, When I first directed As Is there were three reasons why I wanted to mount a production of this extraordinary play. Firstly, because it is an authentic immediate response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Secondly, to honour all of those who were lost to AIDS during those impossible times and, lastly, because if as a result of seeing As Is even one person was inspired to get tested for HIV and discovered they were positive then they could receive the vital treatment they needed. I had never dreamed that person would be me (as I spoke about for the MAD Trust at last year’s West End Eurovision). Since my diagnosis as HIV+ it has become my life’s work using the arts to educate and inspire those who may be too frightened to learn the facts and history about HIV and AIDS.New York City, 1985. Rich (Steven Webb), a young writer who is beginning to find success, is breaking up with his longtime lover, Saul (David Poynor), a professional photographer. However, Rich’s idyll with his new lover is short-lived when he learns that he has contracted the terrifying new disease AIDS and he returns to Saul for sanctuary as he awaits its slow and awful progress.

In a mosaic of brilliantly conceived short scenes, blending humour, poignance and dazzling theatricality, As Is captures the pathos of Rich’s relationship with friends and family, the cold impersonality of the doctors and nurses who care for him and the widely diverse aspects of New York’s gay community. This is a heartbreaking and unsparing examination of a deeply felt human relationship shattered by a mindless, destructive disease.

“The numbers of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV in the UK reached an all-time high in 2011. So this blistering report from the front-line of the AIDS crisis as it first affected a then- unknowing community is sadly all too relevant to us now, and is both a chastening and enlightening reminder of the struggles of an earlier generation. If only it could be said that we’ve learnt their lessons (Mark Shenton, The Stage).”

Natalie Burt, Bevan Celestine, Giles Cooper, Dino Fetscher, Jane Lowe, Russell Morton, David Poynor, Steven Webb.

Directed by Andrew Keates.
Designed by Tim Mcquillen-Wright. Lighting by Neil Brinkworth. Costume Design by Philippa Batt.
Sound Design by James Nicholson. Music by Matthew Strachan.


All photographs by Scott Rylander.

Stephen Fry


“Andrew Keates is a leading figure in British theatre: his drive to present new plays and musicals, performed by the very best in young talent has been one of the most refreshing developments in the London theatre world for ages” Stephen Fry (Author, Broadcaster and Polymath)


A beautifully wrought tale of love and Aids
“Defiant where it could be self-pitying, raucous where it could be worthy”
“Wholly remounting the play following it’s 2013 run at the Finborough Theatre (only Poynor remains from the original cast) director Andrew Keates keeps a masterful hand on the pacing – it’s fast and filthy under the beating of disco lights, and slow and forensic in the cold glare of hospital wards.”

★★★★ Dasie Bowie-Sell, Time Out (Critics Choice) 

“superb, heart-rending revival”.
“A uniformly excellent cast”.
★★★★ The Stage

“Steven Webb is astonishing”
“As Is must stand as the most relevant piece of theatre around”
“gives audiences as bigger say in their interpretation of the piece than has probably ever been allowed in the theatre before”
“As Is teaches that ignorance is not acceptable”
“This first class production, in the extraordinary hands of Andrew Keates, hits every mark in displaying a dazzling display of undying and forgiving love”
★★★★★ William J. Connolly, The Gay Times

“Beautiful piece of theatre that hits every mark”
“Steven Webb and David Poynor deliver incredible performances”
“Funny, touching, intelligent and certainly worth booking a ticket for.”
“Andrew Keates’ direction utilities the space to it’s full potential. He achieves key moments throughout the story, whether big or small, and it flows with quick pace and increasing interest”

Richard Brownie-Marshall, The Huffington Post

“It goes without saying that Keates revival isn’t just a success with an exceptional ensemble company, it is essential theatre that needs to be seen. There is a positive message of hope and love that is a very important one and one that you’re not likely to forget anytime soon”
“Some revivals are as groundbreaking as they are essential bringing forth a message that audiences wont forget. This can be more of an added burden for the company yet Keateshas worked tightly with his company who show a deep commitment to rise to the challenge and do justice to this work.”
★★★★★ The New Currant

“The quality of both direction and acting are superb with its depth and realism created”
My Theatre Mates

“Outstanding! A fantastic, poignant portrayal”.
“Brilliantly written, incredibly deep and takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions”.
“Every cast member does the production credit”
★★★★★ Laura Kate Jones, Everything Theatre

Andrew Keates has created a number of wrap-around events including post-show Q&A’s.  The goal is to encourage people to be tested for HIV, and free HIV testing is available after every Friday night performance. After seeing the play I’ve decided to be tested, whatever the result this play will certainly have changed the way I think about HIV and AIDS. Running for only a month, this is not a show you should miss”
★★★★★ Theatre Weekly

“A really awesome piece of theatre.”
“Outstanding in every respect.”
“Andrew Keates direction is spot on from the lovely opening to the ending, there is not a single moment I would change”

★★★★★ Terry Eastham, London Theatre1

“This is something director Andrew Keates knows all to well, he is an active campaigner and ambassador for Terrence Higgins Trust urging the seriousness of this disease to be recognised without stigma or prejudice. He guides the production with acute sensitivity and warmth, that leaves you laughing one moment and crying the next”
“A humanity and endearing quality that lingers long after the production”.
“It may only be 80 minutes but boy it packs a punch.”
★★★★★ Becky Usher, West End Wilma

“Andrew Keates is ready to take his place amongst the top flight of directors of his generation”
“life-affirming and uplifting”
★★★★★ Plays To See

“Essential theatre that needs to be seen”
★★★★★ The New Review

“tactile and well thought out direction that comes from a phenomenal connection with the text itself”
“you couldn’t ask for a better leading duo”
“As Is is a personally transformative piece of theatre. Beautifully human and unashamedly challenging”
★★★★★ Grumpy Gay Critic

“Steven Webb gives a superb display of wavering defiance”
“the revival that it deserves in a production that is both funny and poignant”
★★★★ ½ Stephen Bates, The Public Reviews

“It’s vital that audiences take a risk to see something like As Is”
“It is hugely poignant, injected with heart and performed superbly”
“The stellar cast bring great humanity to the piece which has been staged with style by director Andrew Keates

★★★★ Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame

“a timely reminder of how far we’ve come, and the distance we still have to go”
★★★★ So So Gay

“an absorbing portrayal of fear, love and tragedy”.
“Webb is an excellent, intuitive actor”
★★★★ British Theatre

“As you’d expect, the piece is sincerely moving but what’s truly impressive is that it remains entertaining, even hilarious, throughout the performance thanks to Hoffman’s fantastic script and Keates’ well-judged direction”
“an inspiring piece of theatre to watch”
★★★★ Jessica Gray, The Theatre Tourist 

“Neill Brinkworth’s lighting design and Matthew Strachan’s music are colourful and evocative additions to what is a life-affirming play”
“As Is remains a vital, powerful and relevant piece of theatre thirty years later”
★★★★ The Gizzle Reviews

“Steven Webb give a masterful performance”
A Younger Theatre

“Andrew Keates no doubt directs a vibrant, non apologetic piece, placing a miscroscope on a subject matter that otherwise is designated to the mid 80s and forgotten about, although millions currently live with HIV and AIDS.”
Lucy Basaba, Theatre Fullstop

“hard-edged and realistic”
“performances that never play for sympathy but are always full of vitality”
British Theatre Guide

“A phenomenal piece both to champion AIDS awareness and to reconnect to everything that is good in the world”
“As Is is totally wonderful”
Emily Jones, Bargain Theatreland

“As Is never preaches, rather it delivers.”
“The emotional and physical importance of As Is demands that it be seen.”
Jonathan Baz

“Andrew Keates’ beautifully assured direction”
“It is a moving and powerful piece”

Timothy Ramsgate, Reviews Gate

“As Is makes you reflect on how far we have come (eg understanding of HIV transmission, treatment options) but also consider what remains to be done (eg fighting prejudice, stigma and discrimination directed against HIV positive people). Writing that is funny, sharp, intelligent, and thoughtful; a very strong ensemble cast; staging that puts you at the centre of the action, making you engage with the play; and important messages for you to take home, act on, and which will stay with you for a long time to come. Highly recommended.”
Rats Patel, EQ Review