The Pride – The complex relationship between nihilism, society and love. (Theatre Review)
Darlinghurst Theatre Company
Eternity Playhouse till 6 March. You can grab your tickets here.
Images: Helen White
It can be argued that the tragedy of the modern human condition, is we are forced to deal with nihilism after the death of God. The great metaphysical dream, exemplified in the fifties, of the soul moving frictionless toward a discovery of itself, is grounded in the assumed supremacy of a certain knowledge which is God. If the soul is motivated to self discovery there must be a higher power setting the standard by which the arrival is to be measured. But humans are exceedingly limited creatures, in breadth and scope, and perhaps our greatest tragedy is in being able to recognize that as a fact. Our culture is beset with Promethean myths of overcoming the human condition, that continue through to this day. If God no longer exists, it is essential to our search for self that he be replaced, and perhaps the answer to nihilism is to venerate and celebrate the right to love.
In the 1950’s the pathway to our higher self was dictated by moral values that took their cue from God. Engaged in religious disappointment is the desperation for an unrealized faith, that is a faith in God or in several Gods. In the wake of the death of God we are left with a religious disappointment that often manifests itself in a passion or faith in love. But our understanding of love is scarred with a religious memory within a religious archive. No where is this more evident than within the battle for LGBT marriage, which is surely the ultimate consummation of Gods law with a post-nihilistic insistence on both the preservation and destruction of Gods law. Under these circumstances, one sympathizes with the character Oliver in The Pride, whose purity leads to rebellion in one age, and who becomes an impurity in order to free himself in another. Is it impossible to conceive that the faithful, generous, loving gay man in the 1950’s could easily be the faithless, selfish heart breaker of the new millenium and effectively be the same man? Alexi Kaye Campbell suggests he is one and the same under the absence and the memory of God. Or rather, he is one and the same under the oppressive dictates of a society clinging to the memory of the morals of its historical God.
Here in lies the great brilliance of The Pride. Under the rainbow banner, the modern-day battle for freedom of relationship expression, is at heart, a cry for a certain kind of acceptance as well as freedom from the need to be accepted by a community that still dictates what gay is and how you have to be gay. Alexi Kaye Campbell and Shane Bosher feel this keenly, and provide an, at times, shocking and confronting expedition into what it means to be fighting for gay rights in a world that insists gay be a certain kind of reflection of straight. Gay men aren’t just gay – they’re also men, and they live under the oppressive weight of machismo and its dictates. The destructive effect this has on the community that fosters gay acceptance is explored with profound and revealing insights.
In this endeavour, Bosher is well supported. His cast, consisting of Geraldine Hakewill, Kyle Kazmarzik, Simon London and the marvellous Matt Minto are all strongly on point, with each of them delivering moments of poignancy and hard-hitting relevance to strike at the heart of a battle we thought we knew. Simon London and Matt Minto are particularly interesting as they play polar opposites of themselves in different time zones, and yet pose the question of freedom in each of their incarnations. Phillip (Simon London) seeks and fears symbols of his relationship status while Oliver (Matt Minto) is willing to travel within the bounds and dictates of society as long as he is free to love. Both are thrilling to watch, but there is an inevitable tragedy in the evolution of Matt Minto that results in an expression of pure nihilism that seems to be more of a refusal to be dictated to rather than a rejection of his lover. Minto plays this in both time frames and the fact that behaviours manifest themselves differently each time doesn’t protect the protagonist from having to live with the consequences of his disarming courage.
In the wake of this level of strength lie Bosher’s two great side characters, in Geraldne Hakewill as Sylvia and Kyle Kazmarzik as several characters used to enhance the narrative of the protagonists. Both Hakewill and Kazmarzik are satellites, people affected by the impact society has on a LGBT lifestyle of those close to them and even themselves, but both contain the seeds of a permissiveness the protagonists seek. While it can easily be stated that Oliver and Phillip just want to love each other, the problem for each boils down to not really knowing how to love each other, and much of this is manifest in the people around them acting as mirrors and doorways; reflection, hope and possibility. The Pride is a beautiful production in so many ways, particularly over the top of Lucilla Smiths set that turns a 50’s parquet floor into a modern green picnic site. The Pride is not only a beautiful production, it is insightful, confronting, revealing and ambitious in structure and makes for a deeply engaging evening at the theatre.