Janet McAllister on the arts

Janet McAllister looks at the world of the arts and literature.

Janet McAllister: Silent hate causes the worst damage

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It was performed with such natural panache even when they kissed, I saw only characters, not actors.

Dan Veint (left) and Calum Gittins in 'Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys.'
Dan Veint (left) and Calum Gittins in 'Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys.'

My newest favourite playwrights are both gay. This might be irrelevant but it's not a coincidence: the Pride Festival this month includes an exciting amount of good New Zealand theatre.

Going to 18 theatre pieces in four days - mostly short, new and based on personal experience - gave me a better snapshot than your average festival does, not just of what it's like being queer, but also what it's like being young in contemporary Aotearoa.

Meanwhile, over in fantastical land, Thomas Sainsbury's obsession with zombies continues. (His Purple Rainbow was ridiculous fun - I enjoy Sainsbury's dance pieces more than his plays. And Kate Simmonds' face danced several wonderfully expressive, comic solos all of its own.)

More surprisingly, although most pieces were written by queer men, I didn't hear Aids or HIV mentioned once.

One short generation after the advent of antiretrovirals, the devastation is perhaps seen as somebody else's.

Instead, several works outlined difficulties faced by queer teenagers. It's not the bashing in the streets which kills most of such young people, as Sam Brooks points out in Queen (revived at Tapac last week), it's the quiet hate, the hiss of "faggot", which makes them run rivers of red at home.

Insensitive school authorities are implicated. "I was bullied out of my own language at 7 years old," testified transgender dancer Raukawa Tuhura, about leaving her kura kaupapa, in Mika Haka Foundation's Teen Faggots Come to Life. Her compelling monologue - at once emotional, physical and intelligent - is called Takataapui, the ancient Maori word for two partners of the same sex, now used, like "queer", as an umbrella term.

Tuhura wonders why the word was kept from her until recently. Takataapui deserves to be widely seen, by children and adults alike.

And my new favourite writers? Bruce Brown is one.

I've seen only his short plays but he has a great ear for snappy bickering and his characters are so complex (even within 10 minutes) that you're not sure who to believe.

And the other is Brown's fellow Unitec (performing and screen arts) graduate, Sam Brooks.

In only two years, Brooks, 23, has put on six plays and written "several more" - and yet, they're good, gently exploring the possibilities of live theatre.

His sweet coming-of-age comedy, Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys, was performed in the Basement carpark with such natural panache by Dan Veint and Calum Gittins, that even when they kissed, I saw only characters, not actors. Via email because of a speech impediment, Brooks tells me that he never showed the original version of Queen as it was "one long, boring, preachy essay ... everything that I feel audiences are afraid Queen is [before] they come".

On the page, the updated poetic, interesting piece is not split into characters as it is on stage, but is "just one long piece of text with changes in fonts and styles ... There's a page that is literally just pictures of Beyonce" This entrusts performers with room to play. Experimentation forever.

- NZ Herald

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