Article Title:Review: NZ premiere of '8'
Author or Credit:Alan Granville
Published on:12th July 2012 - 11:15 am
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Story ID:11982
Text:‘8’ written by Dustin Lance Black The Maidment Theatre, July 11 Starring Robyn Malcolm, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Bruce Phillips, Peter Elliott, Stuart Devenie, John Davies, Heath Jones, Ben Barrington Director: Kacie Stetson On paper this really shouldn’t have worked. Get a bunch of Kiwi actors (albeit very talented ones); only give them a few hours to rehearse; and get them to try out their best American accents while reading out (yes reading!) real life court room dialogue. This could have been a train wreck! But you know what, it wasn’t… it worked. Oh boy did it work. In fact ‘8’ was a sublime, entertaining and ultimately important theatre experience. Important? Well unless ‘8’ had been written, we would have known little of what happened over 12 days in a California court in January 2010, as opponents of Proposition 8 (the ban on gay and lesbian marriage) bid to prove it was unconstitutional. Never saw the court action on TV? Well that’s because cameras were banned thanks to a successful motion by the defendants of Prop 8. It’s almost as if they knew they were going to lose. As a result Oscar-winning writer Dustin Lance Black (Milk) pored through hours of documents to show how laughable and one-sided the argument against gay and lesbian marriage was. ‘8’ has played around the world – in the US the likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Martin Sheen were in the cast (The full US play is on YouTube The New Zealand version featured some of the heavyweights here of stage and screen including Robyn Malcolm, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Bruce Phillips. The staging was simple yet effective – all 21 cast were on stage at the same time, each with the script in front of them. But fears that this would be just a dull reading of court proceedings and legal jargon were dissipated in the first few seconds. The actors may have used the script as a guide but it was clear they knew it word-for-word – and whether they had big or small roles, each actor shone during the 80 minutes. Bruce Phillips and Peter Elliot played their roles as the chief opponents of the marriage ban beautifully and with gravitas. Stuart Devenie also had genuine moments as the man with the doomed mission of defending Prop 8 while Cameron Rhodes’ nervous portrayal of the one defendant called to the witness stand to support the ban was also excellent. But two stand outs for me were in the smaller roles – Michele Hine as the (boo, hiss) National Organisation for Marriage President shone with some meaty lines opposing gay and lesbian marriage; and Sam Shore, who was captivating, sensitive and beautifully vulnerable as Ryan Kendall – a man who testified about how his parents forced him to undergo conversion therapy. Shore’s participation was all the more poignant as he works at Rainbow Youth, one of the charities which benefitted from this special fund raising performance. Everyone involved, including the Maidment Theatre, gave their services for free and should be applauded. The only downside? Well it was a one-night only affair. No tour, no repeat performances. But ‘8’ will live long in the memory to those lucky enough to have seen it on a chilly winter’s night in Auckland. Alan Granville - 12th July 2012    
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