Review: Playing Rock Hudson (Old Fitz Theatre / Left Bauer Productions)

FEATURE5[1]Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 3 – 15, 2015
Playwright: Cameron Lukey
Directors: Jason Langley, Cameron Lukey
Cast: Paul Dowson, Kim Knuckey, Tyran Parke, Peter Talmacs, Mark Taylor, Grace Victoria, Benjamin Winckle

Theatre review
The act of “coming out” by public figures remains a contentious issue. Rock Hudson was a prominent American actor from the 1950s, who had kept his homosexuality a dark secret up to his AIDS-related death in 1985. Playing Rock Hudson offers a look into the star’s final years and his lover Marc Christian’s lawsuit against Hudson’s estate after his passing. Cameron Lukey’s script is detailed and ardent, with shades of tabloid style revelations accompanying passionately political interpretations of events and personalities. It satisfies our need to catch a glimpse of the gay man that had been hidden from view and promotes discussion about the way LGBT history is tainted by deceit, and how it can be amended.

Direction of the work by Lukey and Jason Langley, feels like a nostalgic homage to films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Scenes are reminiscent of romantic and courtroom classics, achieved by thoughtful costuming (by Georgia Hopkins) and specific acting styles, but the show’s rhythm and energy are consequently slightly lethargic by today’s standards. Sequences are not sufficiently differentiated to prevent a sense of repetition, which also results in a plot momentum that is less than dynamic.

Performances are consistently strong, with a support cast that is especially noteworthy. Grace Victoria is a compelling Elizabeth Taylor, leaving a lasting impression by bringing complexity and humour to a legendary character that most are familiar with. Benjamin Winckle plays multiple smaller roles, but each is distinct, colourful and memorable. Leading men Paul Dowson and Mark Taylor are committed and alluring. Dowson plays Rock Hudson with an astonishing likeness and quiet confidence, and the mysterious love interest Marc Christian is played by Taylor with intriguing ambiguity and charm.

The importance of role models for oppressed minorities cannot be overstated. Those who choose to live in the closet will always have their own reasons, but their actions are an obstruction to efforts for the eradication of discrimination everywhere. Even though he continued denying his sexual orientation from the public, it is believed that Hudson’s announcement of his illness 3 months before death, had had a critically positive impact on funding in the USA for AIDS research. People in positions of power and influence owe a debt to the communities who reward them with privilege and prestige. When acting in self-serving hypocrisy, the debt they owe us all is immeasurable.