Herald Theatre: The Pride

Simon London (right) and Kip Chapman in The Pride. Photo / Alt
Simon London (right) and Kip Chapman in The Pride. Photo / Alt

There's a note on the script of Alexi Kaye Campbell's play The Pride which says something along the lines of the biggest challenge facing the director and cast will be making the jumps between the drama's two time periods.

It might have added that actually rehearsing, rather than talking about and musing on the themes The Pride touches on, could also be difficult because there's an obvious temptation to discuss and debate.

Central to the discussion, and The Pride itself, is the question all of us, especially as we get older, contemplate: does the passage of time really lead to a more mature and progressive society or, rather than evolving, are we actually going backwards in some, possibly many, respects?

Spend just an hour with director Sophie Roberts and actor Kip Chapman and you find yourself swept up in a thought-provoking discussion which ranges across politics, modern-day morality, sexuality, relationships and loneliness but eventually returns to the question of social evolution posed above.

Roberts reckons things change but don't necessarily get better; Chapman says he's more optimistic and thinks the world is a better place thanks to the so-called sexual revolution. Both agree, though, that these kinds of discussions are a pivotal part of any robust rehearsal process for a play like The Pride.

"This is a play about how humans live their lives," says Chapman, "about how we interact, how society influences what we do and we need to talk about these ideas - big and small - so we know what we are doing to present this as fully as we can. When you go to see a play, I believe you go to see a story with a moral."

This may surprise those who have seen Chapman's most enduring and lauded piece of work, Apollo 13: Mission Control, which turns the theatre into a replica of Nasa's mission control room and casts the audience as the desk-bound boffins on terra firma who must bring home three astronauts trapped 322,000km from Earth.

Now in the process of being redeveloped for a North American tour, the show won the Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Most Original Production in 2008.

Doubtless it falls into Chapman's description of "whizz bang theatre" - replete with special effects and firmly on the quirky side - but he says he's equally as big a fan of quieter, more considered works like The Pride.

In a love triangle of sorts, The Pride's three protagonists - Oliver (Chapman), Phillip (Simon London) and Sylvia (Dena Kennedy) - are caught in an erotic time warp which flings them from 1958 to 2008 and back again at several points during the play. In 1958, Oliver and Phillip's feelings are forbidden and taboo; 50 years later and two different characters - also called Oliver and Phillip - can supposedly be as candid as they like.

She believes Kaye Campbell picked 1958 as it marked the nascent stirrings of the sexual revolution.

The year before, the Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden Report) was released in Britain, recommending that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be illegal.

"It's an interesting time when conventions are being challenged and things are changing. It is supposedly in marked contrast with today when everyone is meant to be more open, accepting and anything goes."

What: The Pride
Where and when: Herald Theatre, August 10-September 1

- NZ Herald

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