Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

'Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens' presented by Bottom Dog Theatre.

'Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens' presented by Bottom Dog Theatre.

It’s twenty-one years since Bill Russell’s and Janet Wood’s Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens first opened in an off Broadway Theatre at a time when its theatrical musical thesis on the stories of the beautiful and the damned was all too contemporary; in a time when the execrating news of the AIDS virus imposed its sentence on the lives of so many in so many places. That time has passed. The drugs have been tested and prevention is being practised. Like the birth of much great theatre, Elegies was born from pain and told beside joy. Numerous productions have been staged all over the world since 1989 and it is a favourite fund raiser for AIDS charities. So a natural choice for Myles Breen of Bottom Dog to stage during the Limerick Pride Festival, at Bottom Dog's home in the intimate and atmospherically rich Loft Theatre on George’s Quay. And Breen did it proud. Over thirty stories are told from beyond the grave in a cavalcade of free rhyming monologues and couplets, interspersed with songs from the bereaved. Lighting and stage set are subtle and simple leaving the performers to fill the space.

“When I died, my friends threw a big party just as I’d planned,” opens the first monologue from a cravat-clad impresario of fashion. His story of the fantastic frocks under locks and the many women who wore his name bears testament to the talent-gobbling virus’ havoc, and sets the scene for a diverse umbrella of vignettes from a beautiful junkie mother (who says that having sex with twenty guys can buy you lots of lovely lines), who passes the virus to her unborn child, onto the young lad who left “North Dakota drudgery” for the “neon pulse of New York,” and the middle aged woman who hid her shame after contracting the virus through a blood transfusion.

Bottom Dog’s production is a sophisticated marriage of impassioned acting, painful and beautiful songs and poetry, enlivened with great choreography. Although the stories are no longer as fresh and angry as when they were devised, this production of Elegies is so expertly emotionally charged in its execution, it reaches out and touches the audience in all the right places; you laugh, you cry, you empathise, you remember and you are entertained. It basically ticks all the boxes: infusing and weaving the electric, the sombre, the gentleness, the brutality, the joy and the sorrow in a theatrical celebration of life that embraces the rage against death and its ultimate acceptance.

Breda Shannon is a freelance writer and reviews books for The Irish Examiner.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens by Bill Russell and Janet Wood

7 - 11 Sept, 2010

Produced by Bottom Dog Theatre Co
In The Loft, Limerick

Lyrics and story by Bill Russell and Music by Janet Wood

Directed by Myles Breen

Lighting Design: Liam Quinn

Musical Director: Noel Lennon

With: Mark Atkinson, Marie Boylan, Frank Carlin, Roisin Connolly, Aoife Doolan, Nigel Dugdal, Dave Griffin, Peter Hayes, Jean McGlynn, Margaret McBride, Zeb Moore, Liam O’Brien, Sinead O’Brien, Darren O’Dea, Eilis Marie O’Donnell, Ross O’Donoghue, Stephanie O’Keefe, Chris Rowley and Monica Spencer.