I’ve been a very bad blogger. But in my defense it has been that horrible time of the semester when everything is due all at once. Please forgive me and enjoy my thoughts on The Pride.
I think it’s fairly easy to judge that I am quite dedicated to Silo Theatre Company. In the past couple of years I’ve missed very few of their productions and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed. Sometimes I even go more than once.
On Monday, the boyfriend and I headed to The Herald to see their latest offering, The Pride. I’d heard whisperings that it was very very good and it also happened to be Open Dialogue night. This is where they get a panel of interesting people to discuss issues relevant to the play at hand, I was very intrigued.
The Pride, written by Alexi Kaye Campbell is about gay identity and how it has changed over time. This makes it incredibly topical in view of current legal debates but also incredibly interesting for someone who has an interest in sexology.
The Open Dialogue consequently focussed on whether homosexuals were more sexually promiscuous than other people. Led by Bfm’s Sarin Moddle, the panel of Todd Emerson, Steven Oates and Andrew Whiteside got right into it, blowing the topic outside of the narrow, are they/ aren’t they and getting into some of the meatier issues surrounding the ‘gay scene,’ media representation and societal images. The general consensus seemed to be that yes, gay men do get a lot of sex, but it’s not necessarily because they’re more promiscuous, simply it’s more easily available. At the heart of it though, that’s not the crux of things and it’s probably more an image bandied around in mainstream media for unhelpful reasons.
The aspect of the discussion that really caught me was the debate over media representation. I remember really enjoying Todd’s speech in Massive Company’s The Brave, when he talked about how older gay men had paved the way for him to be a gay man in a normal relationship now. Normal, you know that’s it, being gay is normal and when you see these guys, well Steven is a bit more on the sparkly side but they’re normal people (Normal as in not perverted, wrong, heresy, a fad etc.)
Yet, that’s not what you see in the media. Instead it’s all about the people getting up to no good in dodgy places, over sexualisation or in TV programs – the lesbians who change teams like its as easy as changing their hair colour.
With all this to think about my brain was already in overload and maybe yours will be too, but there was still the actual main event to come.
The Pride discusses changing social dynamics in regards to homosexuality and it does it in a very clever way. Focussing on three central characters, Phillip (Simon London), Oliver (Kip Chapman) and Sylvia (Dena Kennedy), The Pride flits, scene by scene between the lives of these people living in England in 1958 and then their lives in 2008.
In 1958, Sylvia is the perfect wife living with a strained and unfulfilled husband. Their lives change (and get a bit r18 in one scene – warning) when they meet Oliver, a writer struggling with his own sexual identity.
2008 paints a very different picture, Oliver and Phillip are in the midst of a break up, fuelled by Oliver’s infidelity. The question is no longer about admitting their sexual preferences, it’s about how far do you go to indulge them.
It’s a contrast that really works to flesh out how far we’ve come, even if you do have to keep up with two simultaneous story lines.
It also leant to some great transitions and costume/ lighting/music.
I’ll try to create the scene for you.
At the back of the stage, hangs patterned glass panels, they move to create different door ways, spaces and walls. They’re beautiful, floral with the occasional bright stripe. I spent the majority of the play waiting for them to be back lit and every now and then I’d have a glimpse of reward with the glow of a person preparing to enter or exit. Finally, in the closing scene I was properly treated to seeing what this glass could do.
In the foreground there are green chairs, stylish, simple, creating the shape of rooms as needed.
Then there’s the music, tracks like Amy Winehouse’s, Our Day Will Come and others of a similar theme ringing out during transitions.
Finally the costuming. Beautiful, beautiful silk dresses, colourful coats, tailored suits, and dressing gowns for the 1950’s set against modern casual gears (slightly hipster for the boys) for the 2000’s. I particularly loved the contrasts between Dena’s, Syvia. 1950’s Sylvia is everything you’d imagine a charming 50’s wife to be. 2000’s Sylvia reminded me of something from Bridget Jones’ Diary, still charming, but a bit loose.
Using all of these elements the scenes would come together, often with characters from the different time zones overlapping in transition. Remember the glowing I mentioned? Well imagine a character sitting on a chair, dim lighting, whilst another glows in the background before they enter. Or characters leaving to go to a restaurant and feeling something brush past them, that something being the next character entering through the same door.
I may be confusing you all, but truly the transitions were possibly one of my favourite bits.
It’s a production that really benefits from the fusion of all of the different elements. Both actors and actress and the whole production team – John Verryt on set, Elizabeth Whiting on costumes, Jennifer Lal on lighting design and Tama Waipara under the very capable direction of Sophie Robert created a beautiful, entertaining and entrancing piece.
I should also mention Sam Snedden, Sam played the ‘man’, ‘Peter’ and ‘doctor.’ Aka all the extra characters needed to fill the story out, but he wasn’t just a filler. As usual he was hilarious and perfect in every role. (Unrelated but I’m still unsure if I scarred or what from seeing all his bits hang out in The Only Child)
The Pride is playing at The Herald Theatre on Mayoral Drive (part of the Aotea Centre) until the 1st of September (2 weeks). Tickets start at $25 and you can get more info/ buy tickets here. I’d recommend it.
** P.s. I only ever review plays that I enjoy. Personally my opinion is that while you can review things and rip people to shreds, thats not a very nice thing to do. Also, Auckland is very small. Because of this you won’t ever see me post a bad theatre review – If I’ve got something bad to say, I won’t say it all. But I may tweet it.