Powerful examination of a tragic time

By Myron My

I recently watched the documentary We Were Here about the AIDS crisis in San Francisco during the 80s where gay men were dying in a matter of weeks from the “gay cancer”, and I had wondered how bad the situation had been in Australia. Three weeks later, I am watching the new theatre work The Death of Kings, which looks at that exact topic.

The Death of Kings

In 2010, Colette F. Keen and Adam Deusien interviewed a number of gay men who had experienced the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sydney in the 80s. From there, Keen’s script for The Death of Kings was born.

Five actors – Mark Dessaix, Greg Iverson, Sebastian Robinson, Joseph Simons and Tyson Wakely – tell the various anecdotes and experiences gathered from that time. They are not restricted to performing on the stage; they walk around and utilize the whole venue to tell their character’s stories. There is very little in terms of set or props so it is up to the five men to make these words come alive, and they deliver strong and engaging performances, especially from Dessaix and Robinson. Deusien’s direction seems effortless and very organic, which ultimately means a lot of time and effort would have gone into giving it that naturalness.

The opening moments are lighthearted and humorous and recreate the blissful time just before the virus appeared in Sydney. From there, the story progresses to its spread, the effects it had on the gay community and the ultimate tragedy of the deaths. As one character movingly states, you would spend ten minutes every Tuesday reading the obituaries to see which of your friends had died that week…

Keen states the inspiration for making The Death of Kings was to ensure the stories of that period did not get lost in time. Personally I found a perhaps even more important reason in the need to remind people that this virus is still a huge issue in society and for us to know just what we are risking when having unsafe sex, especially when there are still many young gay men contracting HIV/AIDS.

The Death of Kings does not preach or force anything upon its audience. It presents the real stories of these people honestly and straightforwardly, with both depth and emotion. A show like this doesn’t happen often and The Death of Kings is one that needs to be watched by all people: gay, straight, man or woman.

Venue: Howler, 7-11 Dawson Street, Brunswick
Season: Until 19 July | 8:00pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc