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THEATRE: 16 FEBRUARY 2016

By TONI CARROLL

The Pride, by Alexi Kaye Campbell | Directed by Shane Bosher

Darlinghurst Theatre Company in association with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival 2016 | Eternity Playhouse, Darlinghurst, Sydney | Until 6 March

It’s not often that you discover a hidden gem in the big city. Well, a gem that for some reason has remained hidden to you. Neither myself nor the Guest — a rabid Sydney theatregoer of many years — knew of Eternity Playhouse’s existence. We strode the kilometre or so from Central expecting to come across a quaint little hole-in-the-wall like the Genesian Theatre, or pub backroom like the Old Fitz.

So we felt like Dorothy stumbling onto the Emerald City when we walked into the foyer of Eternity. With warehouse proportions but a cozy, sophisticated wood-and-downlights feel, we were impressed. A quick search revealed that it has been named after Mr Eternity (Arthur Stace, the chalk guy) and is a renovated heritage Baptist Tabernacle. That explained the casing we could see behind the flats and above the lighting grid once inside the theatre.

And then the play began.

The Pride has me from the opening dialogue. I am riveted as Oliver (Matt Minto) and Phillip (Simon London) masterfully manage the silences and stutterings of a first meeting between two people who have just met the illicit love of their lives. Sylvia (Geraldine Hakewill), Phillip’s wife, enters and the change in dynamic is palpable.

It is an absolute joy to watch these three superb actors inhabit their characters and work together so flawlessly. We cannot help but feel a real empathy for Oliver’s loneliness, Phillip’s guilt and Sylvia’s gentle despair as they deal with their lives in the repressed 1950s pre-pride world.

The setting stays the same but the action moves to the current day, where we see what life would be like for this trio, post-pride. What would Oliver be like if he didn’t have to hide his true self? Would Phillip be kinder and happier if he didn’t have to conform to a society that hates him, making him hate himself? How would Sylvia fit in?

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s script must have been a joy for the actors to work with. It has taken that initial fascinating idea and created fine bones for them to flesh out.

Director Shane Bosher has handled the period switches seamlessly and, like a fine conductor, has orchestrated the light and dark moments masterfully. Be warned, there are a couple of particularly confronting moments but these are essential, and are offset by some equally comical ‘bits’. On this note, mention must also be made of the fabulous Kyle Kazmarzik, who appears as three brilliantly rendered, larger-than-life characters. He rounds off an exceptional cast.

Do yourself a favour. You won’t be disappointed. Thumbs up!