10/08/2012 - 01/09/2012
HOW MUCH COURAGE DOES IT TAKE TO BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE?
Silo jumps back to the future when THE PRIDE plays at Auckland’s Herald Theatre from August 10th. This is one of those thoroughly grown-up plays, examining changing attitudes to love and sexuality on either side of the sexual revolution. Told with heart, humour and boundless empathy, this is a history of sorts.
Oliver, Phillip and Sylvia are caught in a kind of erotic time warp. Their complex live triangle, replete with conflicting loyalties and passions, shift from 1958 to the present and back again in a maelstrom of fantasy, repression and rebellion. In one world, they’re forced to be strangers to both desire and to themselves, weighed down by cautious euphemisms and fearful self censorship. In the other, the rainbow-stickered present, casual sex and empty style collides with the human heart.
THE PRIDE marked the playwriting debut of Alexi Kaye Campbell in November 2008, taking London’s Royal Court Theatre by storm. Interchanging between two different times, Campbell’s work is elegiac in tone but thrilling in its takeout. Campbell’s trail-blazing debut earned him the Critics Circle Award, the John Whiting Award, a GLAAD Award and a Laurence Olivier Award. The New York premiere went on to star hot young things Ben Whishaw, Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough.
Kip Chapman returns to Silo for the first time since 2007’s Lobby Hero. Chapman created the hugely successful Apollo 13: Mission Control, which is currently being redeveloped for a North American tour. He is also the mastermind behind the Hackman Theatre Awards, Auckland’s “alternative” to the Chapman Tripp Awards in Wellington and is about to appear in Eli Kent’s Black Confetti for Auckland Theatre Company.
Simon London returns to New Zealand from Sydney for this production, last appearing with Silo in the watershed production of When The Rain Stops Falling and is joined onstage by Dena Kennedy.
Following her directing debut for the company last year with I Love You Bro, Sophie Roberts returns to helm this thrilling contemporary narrative. Leading costume designer Elizabeth Whiting promises a celebration of vintage bespoke tailoring in one era and the latest Soho streetwear in another.
Evident in the programming of Tribes, The Brothers Size, The Only Child and When the Rain Stops Falling, Silo upholds the tradition of presenting audiences with the very best of international writing with this beautiful chamber piece, which seems tailor-made for the intimacy of the Herald Theatre.
THE PRIDE provokes questions about the benefits of liberation: are we any happier? The constructs of the characters evolve over a 50-year period (for better or worse) in a work of mirrored symmetry that examines the bold sacrifices we sometimes are forced to make for happiness.
“a brave and rewarding drama that speaks to us all.” – THE GUARDIAN, UK
“A tremendously rich and uplifting work.” – TIME OUT, NEW YORK
THE PRIDE plays at the Herald Theatre
Friday 10th August – Saturday 1st September 2012
Monday – Tuesday at 7pm;
Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm
OPEN DIALOGUE: Monday 13th August
TWENTYSOMETHING: Thursday 16th August
Tickets: $25.00 – $49.00 (service fees apply)
Tickets available through THE EDGE – 0800 BUY TICKETS or www.silotheatre.co.nz
‘Pride’ delves deep to wrench open closed door
Review by Janet McAllister 14th Aug 2012
The timing of this season could not be more serendipitous. The final play in an unofficial Silo Theatre series about oppressed minorities, The Pride adds historical context and emotional insight to the arguments for passing Louisa Wall’s member’s bill on gay marriage.
Gay sexual repression back in the bad old days isn’t a new theme (see Brokeback Mountain, or the New Zealand play Mates and Lovers), but the situational character studies of The Pride delve particularly deeply into the territory to good effect. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
What DOES it mean to be gay?
Review by Rosabel Tan 14th Aug 2012
You want a play to change you. You want it to take you by surprise, to delight you, to hurt you. You want it to whisper in your ear three days later when you’re trying to focus during a staff meeting about strategy and best practice. You want it to be meaningful, in whatever way it intends.
In his notes, Alexi Kaye Campbell explains that in writing The Pride, he was interested in the notion of gay identity. “In what it means to be gay in 2009 and how that definition was formed.” We’re presented with the same three characters, Sylvia (Dena Kennedy), Oliver (Kip Chapman) and Philip (Simon London) dealing with the issues of identity and love and betrayal in two parallel timelines: the first is in London in 1958, when homosexuality was a crime punishable by up to two years in prison. Sylvia, a former actress, has been illustrating one of Oliver’s children’s books and has invited him over for dinner. She’s desperate that her husband Philip – an uptight real estate agent – and Oliver get on, and it’s clear from the suffocating silences and stammering conversation that they will, though it won’t be an easy ride.
Flash-forward fifty years. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Profound perspectives on pride then and now
Review by Lexie Matheson 13th Aug 2012
After a month of battling with Auckland City over a nasty little booklet they’d published, seemingly blaming transgendered sex workers in South Auckland for all the commercial ills in that much maligned district, and a week of being labelled the antichrist, a devil worshipper and Satan’s minion for my overt, social media support of marriage equality, I was overdue some pleasant time. This came in the form of lunch with Gresham Bradley, co-chair of The Auckland Pride Festival Trust at the Q Theatre Cafe, an organisation that joyously and happily flies the multi-hued rainbow flag.
I’d been thoughtful about the concept of ‘Pride’ leading up to accepting a role on The Auckland Pride Festival Trust because many of the younger people I work with, and talk to, can’t see the point; see the whole idea of ‘pride’ as a commercial exercise supporting a straight, capitalist corporate paradigm and don’t want a bar of it. I have to add that none of them were born prior to 1986, a fact I regularly remind them of.
“In my day … use it or lose it … eternal vigilance …” – you’ll catch the drift.
So I tottered off to the Herald Theatre to see The Pride smug in the knowledge that I’d thought deeply enough about ‘Pride’ and all its permutations and was ready for everything this play had to throw at me. Wrong.
Alexi Kaye Campbell’s 2008 play explores facets of pride I’d never considered and does so with extraordinary clarity and vision and no shortage of in-your-face brutalism. I can imagine that, despite coming with no warnings whatsoever, there are elements in the play, and in this production, that might be quite triggering for some individuals.
Kaye Campbell, an actor first who has more recently turned his hand to writing, has an exquisite ear for dialogue matched by a sublime understanding of what he is trying to say. So often playwrights know what they want to say but can’t get their characters to say it. They resort to blunder and bumble and bombast but to little effect. No such problem with Campbell.
He also understands how, at moments of deep pathos, human beings often resort to humour of the blackest kind; a release we as audience need as we witness someone we’ve grown to love experiencing their darkest hour.
The Pride, then, provides actors and director with a device that succinctly says what it means – the 2 hour 30 minute journey is never a burden, never seems padded – and does so with a startling emotional intensity, unashamed theatricality and a textual score peppered with wild comedic potential. It’s big stuff, meaty and real, and it matters.
All it required was the right mix of talent to make the whole thing work.
In an interview with Blackbook Campbell says “I couldn’t stop thinking about how personal lives are connected to a bigger social narrative and how there is no such thing as a life that is apolitical because every choice we make is in some way connected to bigger social movements that we either make happen or simply respond to. With The Pride I was very interested in the notion of gay identity. In what it means to be gay in 2009 and how that definition was formed. I was very interested in finding a way of comparing what it meant to be gay now and what it meant in the 1950s but I also wanted to connect these experiences, to show how one period responds to or reacts against a previous one.”
Set in two time periods – 1950 and 2008 – the play has six main characters played by three actors. In each time zone each of the three actors plays a character unrelated to that played in the other time zone but who bears the same name: Philip and Philip, Oliver and Oliver, Sylvia and Sylvia.
Herein lies the premise of the play.
Philip (Simon London) is a real estate salesman in 1950s London. He’s married to Sylvia (Dena Kennedy), once an actress and now a children’s book illustrator who is working for Oliver (Kip Chapman), a children’s author who is, for the times, relatively public about his homosexuality. The men have never met prior to Act 1 Scene one but when they do skin and hair flies. Add a sex aversion therapist (Sam Sneddon) and leave the whole mess of pottage to simmer.
Jump to 2008 and meet Oliver (Kip Chapman), an occasional journalist addicted to anonymous sexual encounters with men in parks, his recent live-in ex, Philip (Simon London), and their mutual straight friend Sylvia (Dena Kennedy). Add a rent boy dress-up queen and a men’s magazine editor (Sam Sneddon) and stir vigorously.
The scenes play out sequentially and seamlessly, the dialogue is snappish and precise and the accents (Kirstie O’Sullivan is the dialect coach) are as crisp and honest as a fresh Granny Smith. Each of the characters has a narrative, embedded early, that has a profound impact on the collective journey, with Oliver’s Delphic epiphany being particularly poignant.
1950s Philip is uptight and unhappy, tart and unfulfilled. He’s queer and we know it so what unfolds is no surprise. Simon London’s characterisation matches what we hear of Philip. He’s taut, ready to snap, and bears a remarkable vocal and physical similarity to a certain prince of the realm of whom many closeted things have been said. Chapman’s portrayal is finely tuned and believable.
Dena Kennedy’s 1950s wife is edgy and guarded, performing ‘happy wife’ and ‘professional woman’ while plainly uncertain of where she sits in this evolving scenario. Kennedy and London play the class card beautifully allowing it to build yet another barrier to honesty and truth.
Kip Chapman plays children’s author Oliver with a light and charming ease that makes him at once attractive and the queer voice we know we should be hearing, but can’t. It’s the 1950s after all and no-one’s listening. Chapman intersects splendidly with the other characters and his scenes with London are exquisitely played.
2008 is a completely different story.
Chapman’s Oliver is a painfully camp, narcissistic man on a journey of self discovery. It’s clearly been a short journey when we first meet him and he’s got an awfully long way to go. He’s funny, quirky, not without ability and it’s easy to see, through the eyes of thoroughly modern Sylvia, that he’s likable and amusing and why, in some strange way, Philip has bothered with him at all.
London’s Philip, on the other hand, is the sensible ‘dude next door’, physically attractive in a heart-throbby sort of way – the epitome of the post law reform, well balanced gay man.
Sylvia is the ditz with the heart of gold. She’s smart, unaffected and a true delight. She’s the friend we all need in times of crisis and, as a straight voice at the pride festival, she provides a subtle window into that mysterious fracture in contemporary life.
It’s fair to say that if director Sophie Roberts had six actors to play these roles, rather than just these three, she wouldn’t have been better served. Their transformations are complete and unwavering and often happen in view of the audience. It’s special, very special indeed, and Roberts’ work is sublimely good and wonderfully invisible.
Sam Snedden, if you haven’t already started to do so, is a man to watch. He plays everyone else in this production, doesn’t have a huge workload but he pushes every button and nails every punch line.
The Pride is a very complete piece of work with every element working to the essence of the whole.
The set (John Verryt) is versatile and classy: a see-through, reflective array of seemingly glass screens that slide to seamlessly create and recreate some of the best acting spaces I’ve seen in a long time. It’s simple and transcends the 60 years of the play’s journey with visual and practical ease.
The costumes (Elizabeth Whiting) are fabulous; so good that the actors seem to have been fashioned in them. Period-perfect, they are evocative, each of a singular time and place, and they transport us from one to the other with the ease of pure genius.
The soundscape that links the scenes (Tama Waipara) delicately supports the emotional paintbox that Campbell has chosen to work with. A couple of songs in the second half seemed to work too literally into the action and were bit clunky for my personal taste but overall this is a minor quibble.
While the production stands handsomely alone and without need of support, particular mention must be made of the programme. It’s informative, helpful and, in parts, quite insightful. I particularly enjoyed the chronology entitled ‘A History of Sorts’ which starts at 1290 with the first mention of a legal code for homosexual acts being added to English common law and arrives, by virtue of a few sage and pertinent dates, at today. Those of us active in the marriage equality movement would happily add the Levite code from the Hebrew Bible of 500BC which was imported into the Christian Bible at some later date but well prior to 1290, and which still proves to be the greatest stumbling block to equality for us queer folk even though it exists outside secular law.
And thereby hangs a tale.
Dan Savage, whose internationally syndicated relationship and sex advice column Savage Love is quoted in the programme, has some pretty cogent things to say about ‘pride’ and how it has become a catch cry for equality and a synonym for the celebration of all things queer. He reminds us that Pope Gregory the Great, that memorable creator of the list of ‘wicked human passions’ that we call the seven deadly sins, was of the opinion that pride was ‘the queen of them all’. Thomas Aquinas went further and insisted that pride was ‘the beginning of all sin’. Savage goes on to analyse how pride and shame – those noteworthy bedfellows in the pantheon of queerness – have taken a see-sawish ride through history until we have ‘pride’ as it is today.
Despite saying at the beginning of this review that I’d been thinking deeply about Pride in all its capital ‘P’ grandeur, by the time I left the theatre I had a new and far more profound perspective sieved through the words of Campbell, the production of Roberts, the performances of Chapman, London, Kennedy and Snedden and the lickety-snippets of Savage from the programme.
I’m (sort of) proud that I slipped off into the night to take my humble pills having seen a wonderful production of a jolly good play and learned a whole lot more about something I thought I’d already nailed.
Theatre at work, really. How good is that?
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer