Article Title:Review: Refreshing, sublime Mates and Lovers
Author or Credit:Steve Attwood
Published on:8th March 2011 - 10:55 pm
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Story ID:10028
Text:Mates and Lovers 
Downstage Theatre, Wellington,
 8-12 March (Also in Dunedin 22-26 March) Presented by Fabulous Arts Aotearoa New Zealand Produced, written and directed by Ronald Trifero Nelson Starring Simon Leary and Paora Taurima Mates and Lovers is funny, irreverent, sad, tragic, serious, OTT, tongue-in-cheek clichéd and original, crude, sublime, stereotypical and fresh and innovative, all at once! And it works. An adaptation of Chris Brickell’s beautiful photographic book, Mates and Lovers, A History of Gay New Zealand this is a docu-drama of New Zealand’s gay male history from the time of Captain Cook’s voyages to the advent of AIDS, Homosexual Law Reform and the Civil Union legislation, to the renaissance of Takataapui, to the modern day. At once complex, with its rapid-fire stringing together of a series of dozens of vignettes, the play is also at its core superbly simple, a couple of chairs, a couple of guys, some lighting, and some dance. But the stories evoked are far from simple, revealing the complexity of gay lives in a society that, for the most part, forced such men to be invisible and live in a world dominated by secret codes and covert sexual innuendo. While I am sure that the heterosexuals in the audience thoroughly enjoyed this production, especially those and who had read Brickell’s book, I am equally sure that gay and takataapui men would have enjoyed, and understood, it even more. The pace of the vignettes and their, at times, pared back sparseness, would have challenged an audience not intimately familiar with being gay and living through these times. For in telling the story of these men and the secret ways they lived, the play itself indulges in these same innuendos, these same nods and winks that, even in these more liberal days, are so much of the gay culture. Simon Leary and Paora Taurima revel in their roles, slipping in and out of their multitude of characterizations as easily as they slipped in and out of their clothes. There was also a choreographed beauty to their movements on stage whether in formal dance, the achingly sad but beautiful bath scene, or posing on their photographer’s chairs. The play is mercifully free of preaching and queer moralizing and, equally mercifully, does not allow its characters to wallow in “poor victim” mode. The stories, instead, are allowed to speak for themselves and the audience is assumed to be intelligent enough to get it.  How refreshing! - Steve Attwood Steve Attwood - 8th March 2011    
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