Legacy Project: Year Two | Auckland Fringe 2015 & Auckland Pride 2015

The Legacy Project is guaranteed to become a permanent fixture on Auckland’s social calendar.

Artistic Director Bruce Brown has curated a cohesive selection of six works to reflect “the modern Kiwi queer experience” and it is undoubtedly one of the highlights of both the Auckland Pride and Auckland Fringe festivals.

With an approximate running time of ninety minutes over all, these six short plays are short, sharp and mini dynamos in their own rights, touching upon a number of different themes. They offer quintessential glimpses into not just examples of contemporary theatre from the queer community but the talent and skill that goes into the making of these memorable stories.

Topics include bondage (everyone’s favourite topic and a great way to start the night); challenges of choosing the right time (if there ever is such a thing) to come out; the desire for voice and visibility, especially among family and loved ones; the courage to re-kindle old friendships; the decision to move on and find love … It’s all there.

As is, of course, the always essential commentary on the local queer support services.

Act of Submission by Nathan Joe ensures the show’s opening is unforgettable. Displaying poise and strong physicality, Sean (Theodore David) and Nick (Timothy Whale) immediately captivate the audience’s attention with their slow sensuous movements. Perfectly complementary sound and lighting set the stage for a night where two young lovers decide to push boundaries.

The quick pithy dialogue is perfect for the volatile conversation that ensues when things don’t go quite according to plan, and the play has an unexpected twist that is perfectly timed. Directed by Joanna Craig with a beautiful lightness of touch and simplicity, it is an ideal introduction to the Legacy Project’s second year of selected works.

Following close behind, One More Day takes us back to those last few days of high school, when life in all its glorious expansion seems to be waiting just around the corner. But while Cody (Damien Levi) may be ready to shout it out with relief from the rooftops (now that he’s told Mum and Dad) it leaves his best friend Sam (Rachael Jocelyn) cringing at the prospect of what everyone else will think – not of him, but her. Meanwhile Mum (Jo Clark) and Dad (Matt Halliday) are having a hard conversation of their own, realising that things might not be quite as predictable now they know their son is gay.

Personable and authentic, all four performers have sound stage presence but what playwright Jordan Keyzer might have missed is one last closing scene to take it a step further and provide a much needed arc to his play’s narrative. However, that is only a small quibble. The warmth and personality with which Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho directs these four excellent performers makes this work highly memorable.

Perhaps one of the least affecting works is Cole Meyer’s Negative Space, which highlights moments from the lives of four trans individuals. Moving and poignant in and of themselves, the deliberate silencing of voice and avowed rejection experienced is expressed in an unimaginative and slightly reductive style, where each of the four distinct characters (played by Kat Glass, Kyrus Watson, Jess Holly Bates and Kurt McCarthy) are essentially muted by parents and loved ones (Rebecca Swaney and Steven Ciprian). The somewhat one-note direction by Luke Thornborough is nevertheless redeemed towards the end when empowerment, and not victimization, has the final say.

Bruce Brown’s Top and Tail leads the final three works and with delicious humour showcases what happens when friendships change in unexpected ways. Performed by the highly skilled Lucas Haugh and Matthew J Smith, this wonderfully rich and perfectly paced encounter between two teens sharing a bed makes for some brilliant comic moments, many of which take place beneath the covers. An easy portable set and minimalist costuming lends itself to the narrative which, under Sarah Jansen’s direction, combines moments of hilarity with profundity.

While it doesn’t quite have the same level of characterisation as some of the others, A Lovestory certainly brings about a change to the night’s pace by exploring what happens when somebody you love leaves – and then decides to come back. Todd Waters’ writing is slightly predictable and so are his characters and yet the story is still incomplete: there is more to being ‘stronger’ than just running away with a Britney Spears cover pounding in your ears, catchy as the tune may be.

Both Andrew Parker and Harry Summerfield give good performances but verge on cliché, while Jesse Hilford’s direction is simple yet adequate, resulting in a good story that sits comfortably within its expectations.

But it is the closing work, Queer Support that really illuminates how important curation is in a selection of works. Joni Nelson’s script and Lisa Fothergill’s staging are the perfect match to bring to light what happens when a confused and unsure woman seeks advice from the local gender orientation services group. Andrew Gordon and Chris Bryan are brilliant at spinning stereotypes in a rainbow whirl that forces their unknowing victim (Geneva Norman) to ‘tick the box’. Smart, funny and match-fit, this is unequivocally the stand-out of the night.

Considering this is Legacy Project’s second year, the calibre of the work is excellent. The segues between each production are almost flawless and Michael Craven’s lighting must be commended for its flexibility and fluidity. A true example of burgeoning artistic talent across the board, Legacy Project is a promise that New Zealand theatre is rapidly changing to reflect the imagination of its diverse communities.

#queer #shortplays #legacy #fringe #pride