Theatre review: The Pride, Herald Theatre

By Janet McAllister

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Simon London (left) and Kip Chapman in The Pride. Photo / Supplied
Simon London (left) and Kip Chapman in The Pride. Photo / Supplied

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.

Contrasting gay relationship issues between two different sets of characters in 1958 and 2008, the drama shows in detail the wrenching psychological and social effects - including devastating loneliness, self-loathing and betrayal - of homosexual censure.
Playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell's additional suggestion - that anyone having anonymous sex is probably doing so because they've internalised that censure - is more contentious, but other competing possibilities are also given space on stage.

Directed by Sophie Roberts, the four actors adroitly and unselfconsciously bring psychological, subjective truths and dilemmas to life. The first 1958 drawing room meeting between Oliver (an assured Kip Chapman) and Philip (a subtle Simon London) is fittingly nervy, awkward and static, and later leads to explosive outbursts and tearful dissections. "I left my umbrella at the library," says Oliver at one point, revealing his disturbance of mind in a very British way.

Dena Kennedy has opportunity to show an impressive emotional range, and is a pleasure to watch, particularly in a giddy, bubbly-fuelled 2008 fruit-fly speech, while Sam Snedden does great service as a wide-boy lad-mag editor and "a make-believe Nazi from the internet".

Tama Waipara's chamber music score is suitably worried, while John Verryt's backdrop of sliding, reflecting transparent panels printed with delicate green flowers and stripes perhaps represents a closet of sorts.

The audience seating layout is peculiar; choose your seat carefully if you don't want to look sideways the whole time. Earlybird "theatrical economy" tickets only $30.

What: The Pride
Where: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, to September 1

- NZ Herald

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