Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Pride, Red Stitch, July 25, 2012 ***1/2

By Alexi Kaye Campbell
Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, July 25 to Aug 18, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
 Published on line in Herald Sun on Fri July 27 then in print on Mon July 30. KH

 Lyall Brooks, Ben Guerens & Ngaire Dawn Fair

THERE IS A SURPRISING SHIFT from cleverly wrought comedy to grim, menacing drama during The Pride.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play incorporates two stories. The first, set in conservative 1958 England, Phillip (Lyall Brooks), a repressed homosexual, struggles with a shameful attraction to a Oliver (Ben Geuerens OK) a friend of his rather delicate wife, Sylvia (Ngaire Dawn Fair).

In the second unrelated and contemporary story, another Oliver (Geuerens), who is addicted to anonymous sex, scrambles to rescue his relationship with his lover, Phillip (Brooks), who cannot accept Oliver’s repeated promiscuous dalliances.

The stories, separated in time, both raise the fraught issues of infidelity, lovelessness, denial, the dark underbelly of human sexuality and the growing acceptance of homosexuality.

Brooks has impeccable comic timing and delivery and also a firm grasp of the dramatic, playing with sympathy both the closeted, conservative 1950s Phillip and his modern, warm and loving counterpart.

Geuerens’ 50s Oliver is open and generous while his modern Ollie is entertainingly pettish, indulgent and manipulative, although occasionally Geuerens’ articulation and accent loses clarity.

Fair is heartbreakingly fragile as the betrayed 50s Sylvia, and mischievously sassy as the 21st century fag hag, while Ben Prendergast provides some amusing cameos.

Gary Abrahams’ direction dovetails the two stories effectively, taking advantage of the upstage, smoky, plastic screens to create mystery and depth.

Kaye Campbell’s dual narrative merges the comic and dramatic, his dialogue is well observed, and characters are affecting. The play is a painful reminder of the discrimination and fear suffered by homosexual men in the past and, to a lesser extent, the present. 

 However, the romantic ending seems glib or too easy and some crucial parts of the characters’ evolution occur off-stage. Perhaps the fact that the audience must fill in the blanks about these people is the more courageous choice for the writer.

By Kate Herbert

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