Angels in America and ‘Queer’ Event Cinema: Immediacy, Simulation and Liminal Space

Authors: Pullen, C.

Start date: 15 February 2019

Foregrounding the landmark 1990s AIDS play Angels in America, which was performed in London, UK in 2017, this paper considers its textual and cultural reinvention through live broadcast to cinemas worldwide as part of National Theatre Live. Forming part of Event Cinema, a contemporary cinematic experience where live performances such as theatre drama, opera, musical concert and sports events are broadcast into movie theatres, this paper considers Angels in America’s significance as ‘Queer’ Event Cinema – reconfiguring notions of ‘immediacy’, ‘simulation’ and ‘liminal space’. National Theatre Live’s production of Angels in America, I argue stimulated powerful aspects of realism, immediacy and affect, despite being distributed to cinema audiences, seeming antithetical to the politicised social space of theatre, at the point of performance. As such this paper considers not only aspects of textual and cultural reformation, but also the significance of the diverse audience social space, evident in cinema compared to theatre. However as ‘Queer’ Event Cinema, while the 2017 production of Angels in America as part of National Theatre Live reached new cinematic audiences – seeming to offer rebellious and transgressive potential, in many ways it diluted, rather than distilled its queer political and social message. Whilst the emergence of a fully-fledged ‘Queer’ Event Cinema, including the broadcast of diverse queer plays might seem some way off, Angels in America as part of National Theatre Live is a tantalising moment of both potential, and limitation.

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