Review: The Pride (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

darloVenue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Feb 5 – Mar 6, 2016
Playwright: Alexi Kaye Campbell
Director: Shane Bosher
Cast: Geraldine Hakewill, Kyle Kazmarzik, Simon London, Matt Minto
Image by Helen White

Theatre review
Like all good narratives that move toward a satisfying conclusion, we hope for political movements of each era to come with happy endings. Each of the causes that people fight for have a definite objective, but their reverberations are often felt far beyond those destinations, and happily ever after is never as simple a proposition as we might imagine. The Pride is about gay liberation, but its concerns extend beyond the legal rights that LGBT communities have, and continue to, achieve. It looks at the reparations that have not been made, even though our law books are altered for better standards of equality and humanity. Alexi Kaye Campbell’s script is about the scars that gay men continue to bear, at a time when the fight, in Britain at least, is meant to be over.

Campbell’s play is a very deep one. Its explorations of intimate gay histories is imbued with the most thorough cognizance of the human condition. We look not only at feelings, but also at the way people’s behaviours are shaped, when subject to generations of injustice and cruelty. Its insights are valuable, and its message important, but the script is lengthy, with scenes that struggle to sustain dramatic tension as they take time to get to their point, although every line of dialogue is undoubtedly beautifully crafted. Director Shane Bosher’s style is sophisticated and honest. He does not overcome the writing’s structural issues, but what he brings is marvellous elucidation to a rare discussion of contemporary gay life, and the challenges faced by a community that is often tricked into thinking that the worst is over.

The production is performed with great passion by its cast of four. The level of commitment in their work is truly splendid, even if their individual abilities may vary. Simon London is magnificent as Phillip. His portrayal of vulnerability is full of poignancy and vividly resonant, even as the character spends a lifetime manufacturing false fronts and deceptions. London inhabits all the contradictory qualities of his tragic role, along with the extreme emotionality of his thinly-veiled true nature, to leave a remarkable and lasting impression. Leading man Matt Minto has an appealing authenticity that makes Oliver’s stories palpable, but the actor has a tendency to be too quiet, almost film-like in his approach, requiring the audience to work harder to connect (in the absence of cameras zooming in for close ups). Geraldine Hakewill too, can afford to introduce greater theatricality to her roles, but even though slightly straightforward, her interpretations are consistently thoughtful and strikingly empathetic. Scene-stealer Kyle Kazmarzik pops up in different guises playing minor roles, but is completely delightful in every moment. His comedy is flawless, and transformations between personalities astounding. Kazmarzik takes on the easier parts of the script, but exceeds all expectations and requirements to deliver some of the most memorably engaging sequences in the production.

Like a pride of lions, our LGBT communities have weathered the worst that society is capable of, and have come out fierce, resilient and strong. We have also inherited a merciless savagery that can rear its head at unsuspecting times, even or perhaps especially, against ourselves. When the war is over, our impulse is to celebrate, but someone has to pick up the pieces left behind by the enduring harm inflicted in years past, or a beast of destruction will manifest. In The Pride, things end on an optimistic note, and even though its suddenly illusory quality of its closing scene does not deceive, its hopefulness is welcome, and necessary.