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Rise like a Phoenix is my new comedy play about five guys having a house party. There are friendships, past relationships, new ones, but the main strand that connects these characters is that they are all living with HIV. They are all relatively recently diagnosed and we see how they cope and how they deal with the virus and how acceptance is on the scene today. During the course of the play, each character remembers the date they were diagnosed and how it impacted their lives. 

 


For me, it was a November a few years back. I went for a blood check for something, which I can’t even recall now. Then the doctor rang me back and said that the blood went for HIV testing by accident so would I go back again? Then a couple of weeks later I got a letter to say I need to go back as soon as possible, face-to-face as the details could not be discussed over the phone. I was slightly confused. It couldn’t be HIV because I’ve always been responsible. Maybe there is something else? But when I did go a councillor handed me a box of tissues. I was still none the wiser clutching them. Then she informed me that I was HIV.

I went back to work in shock, I went home in shock. I was given books to read, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was concerned by the stigma. So, I went to Terrence Higgins Trust for support, which helped. I always remember seeing a seventeen year old lad, sitting, waiting to be seen by a councillor. He was holding back the tears pretending to play with his phone. I wanted to talk to him but then I thought – what could I say? In my case, that was the beginning of a journey which explored highs and lows.

I already had health challenges so I began suffering depression. I lost my passion for life. I told some people, which was a harder experience than coming out gay when I was younger. Some were fantastic, some I regret telling. But in time, I gradually managed to get myself together and get back in control. From learning from my own experiences and others in the same situation, I felt it was very important to share these stories. So, last year I pitched a tent away from the world and this big emotional ball inside of me poured out and Rise like a Phoenix was born. I was frustrated, I cried, I was angry but in the end the comedy of life came through – as it always does. In the play, a character wants to write a book about his experiences and his working title is ‘If it helps one normal heart.’ In my case, it did.

 

• Rise Like A Phoenix is at the Above The Stag Theatre (17 Miles Street, Vauxhall, SW8 1RZ) from Wednesday 8th April–Sunday 3rd May. 

Tickets: www.abovethestag.com

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