Last night I watched Rent with Alan and Jiggy. The musical about AIDS-afflicted and drug addicted artists has both scandalised and inspired my artistic self. But where does my addiction to Rent stem? Rent is a christmas play; it begins on Christmas Eve and ends on Christmas Eve a year later. It is fitting, therefore, that my story begins in December of last year when I was working on a short film myself. The Christmas-themed video I produced was called “Light My Candle” and was loosely based on a flirtatious scene between to characters in the play. Much like my film, I think the band found Rent far too intense for a Sunday evening, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Personally, I think the film adaptation is beautiful, and it is Angel Dumott Schungard – a homosexual drag queen – who had the biggest influence on me, and who I believe keeps Rent close to my heart. She plays a white plastic bucket for a drum, falls in love with Tom Collins after rescuing him after he is mugged, and kills Benny’s dog (without knowing it was his) by driving the dog crazy with her drum playing. This is all for a rich lady who randomly shows up in a limousine complaining about how the canine’s constant barking has kept her from her slumber. (Try to say all that in one breath.)
And like the majority of the characters, she suffers from AIDS.
Regardless of this disease, Angel is one the happiest character in the production; and meanwhile the others pout about the doom and gloom of poor living conditions and their relationship issues. In fact, the best relationship the plot has to offer is the relationship between Angel and Collins, which seemingly has no visible flaws and is very heartwarming.
When the other characters begin to split apart, she is the optimistic glue that holds them together. For example, take the scene where Angel first meets Collins. She did not have to help a total stranger, and yet she did. She is Collins’ “guardian angel,” and she represents the spirit of Christmas.
It is clear how badly the rest of the cast is affected as her character deteriorates and perishes. Their solid rock, their “angel,” is gone. She is the one to move the story along and seems to do so more than the lead characters, which is ironic as she is a subplot to the Roger and Mimi love story.
Angel remains to be the group’s link to each other even after death when Mark cures his mental block and dedicates his film to her and their friends’ lives. As you can see, Angel Dumott Schunard represents every aspect of what the Christmas season should be.
Perhaps it is Angel’s optimism throughout the musical which has kept me in tune with her tunes for so long. Perhaps it’s the fact she’s a ‘female’ drummer that I consider her such an inspiration. Or maybe it’s down to her nurturing and beautiful soul that I, quite simply, wish to be like her. In a poverty-stricken, struggling and diseased society, Angel keeps morale highest.
Browsing through musicals on Spotify, it was initially a line from the song ‘Life Support’ which grabbed my attention: probably the irony and due to the the melancholy lyrics over the top of a surprisingly light-hearted tune. I fell in love with the film last year (and yes – I’ll admit – it was the schmaltzier stuff in the film adaption that made me fall for the musical in the first place). I also found myself becoming drawn to the Bohemia that is depicted in Rent, although no longer exists. However, that doesn’t mean that “Bohemia is dead.” Whilst not quite experiencing the ‘bohemian life’ first hand, the music scene surrounding Dundee is as close to the ‘struggling artist thing’ as I have seen. Okay.. a shoddy comparison perhaps, but I’ve heard of people who have moved out; made a decision to pursue the arts that is not exactly celebrated by parents. I have heard stories of artists striving to support themselves or admit failure, and hence I guess I have been no stranger to a toned down ‘La Vie Bohème’ for the past two years. And perhaps, therefore, what I am really captured by is the overall theme of the musical: life is for both living and loving.
LIFE SUPPORT (MOVIE CAST) LYRICS:
Look I find some of what you teach suspect
Because I’m used to relaying on intellect
But I try to open up to what I don’t know
Because reason says I should have died
Three years ago
There’s only us
There’s only this
Or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today