“Expressing Ourselves”, an exhibition on diverse HIV experience to launch alongside Live To Tell: (A Proposal For) The Madonna Jukebox Musical

PlayWell Productions and Brian Mullin officially launched the return of Brian’s Live To Tell: (A Proposal For) The Madonna Jukebox Musical to London alongside the exhibition “Expressing Ourselves” at Camden People’s Theatre with a special event on Wednesday 5th April.

Brian Mullin’s Live To Tell: (A Proposal For) The Madonna Jukebox Musical, which runs at the London venue until 15th April, a “highly personal, impassioned stance on living with HIV” (Everything Theatre) that follows the quest of Brian, a Madonna superfan living with HIV, as he pitches himself to Madonna to create a musical based on her songs, whilst also facing what it means in his own life to survive with HIV.

Alongside the show, audiences can view “Expressing Ourselves” an exhibition in Camden People’s Theatre’s lobby curated by Brian from workshops he is currently co-leading with HIV charity Positive East. It features powerful, personal writing from a diverse range of men and women sharing often unheard experiences of life with HIV in their own words.

For the special event, performer and playwright Brian Mullin was joined by co-facilitator Mina Kakaiya from Positive East, Clinical Research Fellow at UCL’s Institute for Global Health Dr Shema Tariq and actor/HIV advocate Stephen Hart alongside participants in the exhibition who shared and discussed their experiences and writing.

Brian Mullin plays the self-inspired role of Brian with Dan de la Motte playing all other characters and Nadya Ginsburg (2 Broke Girls, RuPaul’s Drag Race) providing the voice of Madonna.

Alongside Mullin on the creative team are Deirdre McLaughlin as Director, Josh Anio Grigg as Digital & Sound Designer, Alex Thomas as Lighting Designer and Steph J Weller for PlayWell Productions as Producer. 

Dr Shema Tariq said of the event,

“Brian’s thought-provoking play captures the messy middle bit of living with HIV as a long-term condition.  The psychological toll, the side effects, and the difficulties of taking daily medication for the rest of your life are all examined unflinchingly. It is also a breath of fresh air to see the work of women and people of colour living with HIV be amplified in the accompanying exhibition.  When HIV has been represented in popular culture it has tended to focus on the experiences of white, cisgender gay men.  Whilst undoubtedly important, we must remember that over half the global population of people living with HIV are women.  Brian, Mina and the workshop participants’ commitment to diversifying the narratives of HIV should be applauded. Tremendously inspiring and moving.”

Mina Kakaiya, Peer Support Worker at Positive East: “I’ve been living with HIV for 20 years, and my work seeks to empower other people living with HIV and to challenge and overcome stigma. As a South Asian woman, there is a lack of visibility and experiences of people like me reflected in media about HIV. I’m thrilled that these workshops have attracted a good proportion of women, particularly African and Caribbean women. Combining my skills as a facilitator, coach and activist with Brian’s artistic ones, we’re proud to have created a safe space for participants to open up and unlock their hidden creative talents with a sense of playfulness and empathy. The room has been filled with laughs and some cathartic tears, but mostly a sense of pride as we shape writing that expresses a range of often unheard perspectives about living with HIV.”

George Hodson, 74, artist and long-term HIV warrior queen, who attended the launch of the production and exhibition said, 

“Brian’s engaging play shows us just how AIDS/HIV meds don’t just help our friends the T-cell gang, but can and do percolate and penetrate our brains causing all sorts of tangential psychological problems. Sadly like so much of life there are no free lunches in the world of meds. They can and do stir up a hornet’s nest of anger and fear for Brian, seeping into his very self-confidence and being, interfering with his relationships with himself and those who love him. He turns for support and clarity to his idol the blessed Madge for some kind of clarity and relief. His end speech brought me, a 40-year hardened old HIV/AIDS queen, to tears! He is a fierce and natural actor who totally throws himself into this play. Go see!”

Tickets for CPT are on sale at https://cptheatre.co.uk/whatson/Live-to-Tell-A-Proposal-for-the-Madonna-Jukebox-Musical


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