Article Title:Not a coming out story
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:26th May 2011 - 11:33 am
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Story ID:10406
Text:The Brothers Size couldn't be further from the typical 'coming out story' so often seen on stage and screen. And that's exactly what attracted Silo's Artistic Director Shane Bosher to it. The widely-acclaimed work by young, gay writer Tarell Alvin McCraney is set in the Louisiana Projects and steeped in Nigerian beliefs and customs. McCraney, 30, began writing the play in a workshop at the Yale School of Drama and went on to win the inaugural New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award in 2009. He'd come a long way from his Miami childhood, where he grew up in the 'hood', was beaten up for being effeminate, had his house destroyed by a hurricane and watched his drug addicted mother die as a result of AIDS when he was 23. Theatre became McCraney's lifeline and the gritty reality of his life is in turn reflected in The Brothers Size, set around the lives of the 'proud, calm and hard-working' Ogun and his wayward brother Oshooi, who has just been released from prison. Shane Bosher, who is directing the play himself, says The Brothers Size immediately hit him as something special. "I've had the opportunity to direct a whole lot of works with queer sensibility over the last, you know, hundred thousand years that I've been directing," he jokes. "What struck me about this play is that the conversation had evolved. I wasn't dealing anymore with a coming out saga, which is what so much of the canon of work, in terms of queer theatre, has been about." Bosher says The Brothers Size is about what it really means to be a man, and how different definitions of masculinity, as the world prescribes them, alter who and how you are able to be and to interact. The queer character in the play is not out and Bosher says it's not even remotely about being out, because he is a man who lives in the Projects, where it's not even a conversation that can be had. "He is defined as a thug and as a dealer and a mischief-maker and shape-shifter. His sexuality doesn't ever come into question," the director explains. "The thing that I find most interesting and dynamic about it is the character he's in a relationship with in the play, they've had a relationship in prison, and it's about how they change the parameters of their relationship on the outside. There's an internal world and an external world. In the internal world of prison it's okay, but it's not talked about. In the external world you can't even articulate it vocally, let alone physically." Bosher says the play is very different to The Little Dog Laughed, The Boys in the Band or Holding The Man. It reminds him of the TV show The Wire, which takes a rather realistic look at the drug trade on the streets of Baltimore. McCraney is pretty extraordinary, according to Bosher, who says the story itself is like a simple fable, "but it's so incredibly textured. He writes about all these things at the same time – he's talking about poverty, he's talking about slavery, he's talking about masculinity, he's talking about family, he's talking about connections to West African Gods, all at the same time. The rhythms of the play are so incredibly theatrical, there's no way it could be a film. And that's one of the things that I love about it, that is has a really unique life force that's really accessible. Yes it feels like you're watching The Wire. But it also feels like you're watching Black Grace, at the same time. Which I think is a signal of his skill." While the play is written in clear Louisiana dialect, Bosher says the movement language for the Silo production started from haka and sasa and let things evolve. "Certainly you can see that flavour physically in the production. One of the things we set out to do when we programmed it was choose the three best men of colour in the country to be in it, for the three roles, regardless of whether they were Maori or PI or African American themselves, because ultimately the story is universal. Because it's so specific it is universal. You look at them and think 'these could be boys from South Auckland. These could be boys from Nigeria. These could be boys from Louisiana.' They are one and all the same thing at the same time." The soundtrack has been created by exquisite musician Tama Waipara, who Bosher says has an ability to come in and immediately access the heartbeat of a work. "Because the play's got so much music in it, so much singing and so much rhythm, he's been able to articulate a whole other world. So we have a live musician onstage and they sing African American spirituals and there's a 50 Cent song and there's a whole lot of other world inside the play which he's been able to bring to life, which is really amazing." Bosher says the Silo team are constantly trying to look for what feels "next". He says a couple of years ago he felt the programme had become a bit 'samey' and suffering from what he describes as 'the modern epidemic of the white social play', where moneyed and witty people get together and talk about their sex lives and how their lives are so dysfunctional. "And they were incredibly successful for us, but I kind of went, okay, we're just about to have those past their use by date, what's next?" Silo then looked at new voices, from New Zealand and overseas, and where it could push things into the future. "We actually discovered the way to do it was to really look at what's unique about theatre, what are the things you get from a theatrical experience that are different to television or a piece of film? So the work that we've chosen to programme, last year and particularly this year, has an expressly theatrical aspect to it. We're looking to further that conversation with our audience." The Silo production of The Brothers Size features actors Pua Magasiva, Jarod Rawiri and Te Kohe Tuhaka. It's on stage at Auckland's Herald Theatre from 26 May - 18 June; however the preview night and opening night have sold out. Click here for more information on tickets Jacqui Stanford - 26th May 2011    
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