The last time I worked with Shaun Kitchener on a play was way back in 2014. We had graduated from university (University of East Anglia if you’re interested) a few years earlier and had both gravitated to London to start building our careers in the theatre-world. Shaun had been particularly busy, writing and developing a new play called Positive which he’d taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the year before. He had redrafted the play, fleshed it out and was on the search for a director for a London run. I was delighted when he asked me to take a read and meet with him to discuss it. And even more excited when I got the job.
I was struck by a few things upon reading Positive for the first time... Firstly, the writing was superb and beautifully constructed. There was an honesty to all the characters. They were well-rounded, believable and likeable. Perhaps it sounds silly to say so, but a core strength was seeing real people in real situations. Secondly, it was funny. Really funny. Shaun was writing about a subject (HIV) rarely brought to the theatre and tackling it with humour rather than overt sentimentality. He got the balance between tragedy and comedy just right. And just like all good plays should, it twisted and turned. One memorable scene saw the protagonist at a man’s flat after an impromptu night out. They hurriedly fumbled and kissed. All hilarious until the reveal of him being HIV positive garnered an unjust and over the top rejection. A gut wrenching scene. Beautiful in a strange way. Lastly, I was struck by the flow of the play. The story constantly moved and characters paths intertwined seamlessly, often springing up surprises both funny and sad. As I directed the piece I was keen to maintain the inbuilt rhythm of the piece, ensuring each scene moved into the next without pause. All of these strengths are in Shaun’s new play All That which explores the topic of monogamy and what it means to be in an open relationship. The play is funny, the characters are believable, the protagonist struggling as he enters into a situation which challenges who he thinks he is.
Positive was my first gig as a director and Shaun’s first full-length professional play. It was a hit. Shaun got an Off-West End Award nomination. The play got published (give it a read). The show got a transfer. But here we are. Four years later. Reunited again. I’m now a Junior Associate at the King’s Head Theatre. Shaun is writing for TV. We’re older, (hopefully) better, but just as excited about putting on a play. Just like last time, the play has had a short run previously: at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre last year. And just like last time, Shaun has redrafted it just as I get involved. There’s something lovely about reuniting, so much feels the same and so much feels different. We’ve got a one week run. And we’re part of the excellent Queer Season at this fab theatre in Islington. You should all check it out and see what this writer and director reunion creates!