Style that still lets the bride shine...
(ThatSo Gay Festival)
DIRECTOR: Alby Michaels
PLAYWRIGHT: Tom Coash
CAST: David Dennis, Brenda Radloff, Gopala Chetty
VENUE: Con Cowan Theatre, Bunting Road Campus
Set in modern Cairo, a British writer, Nicholas Field (Dennis), and an Egyptian student, Mohammed (Chetty), covertly live as lovers.
We meet the two men after the student’s arrest and torture simply because his name was on a list because he did cartoons for a student newspaper which has since been banned.
In the current circumstances he has no rights, was only told he was arrested because he is “unclean” and there’s no guarantee it couldn’t happen again. The writer is distressed by his lover’s dilemma and decides to try to get him a passport to Britain.
“I will lie through my teeth,” he says to his partner in desperation to keep him safe.
The premise is an intriguing one in a world where being gay is still considered a crime, especially when religion also comes into play. The two men know the world is against them and while they haven’t exactly advertised their relationship, they are desperate about being discovered.
Beautifully staged with newsreels of Cairo’s present chaos constantly flashed between scenes, the stage is set for the dramatic events to unfold. And yet, the narrative doesn’t flow. While the play grapples with the pressure on the disenfranchised to take up arms in the name of religion, Mohammed turns too easily from a loving partner who is insecure about the writer’s intention to someone who is determined to fight for his religious beliefs.
He suddenly starts sprouting anti-colonial propaganda and his love of God even though he was willing to shack up with the writer in what seems to be a strong partnership up to that point.
Field, in fact, is willing to risk much to take his lover with him to London. But suddenly the boy shows a strong British antipathy which hadn’t surfaced in their relationship up to that point.
Thank goodness for Dennis who gives a splendid performance as the compassionate yet terrified writer who is willing to do anything for love. Chetty struggles to convince as the conflicted student who suddenly decides his passions are his country and religion. And he is willing to give his life for either.
This unexpectedly comes from a man who, as a result of his recent torture and rape, has been having nightmares and dreaming of flight.
It’s partly text and partly performance, but it’s difficult to buy any of the young man’s sudden fervour which he seems to turn on and off at will.
Radloff gives a charming performance as the British agent who has to facilitate the young man’s departure, but the decision to have her lie on a table while reciting a poem was clumsy and detracts from her rather stoic performance until then. Her sudden decision to grant the young man a passport also doesn’t make sense. She isn’t the kind of character who acts on a whim. Michaels is an interesting director, but he seems to be more attuned to the visual impact rather than the emotional timelines which anchor a play.
It’s as though some of the events are happening in isolation rather than every line complementing a whole and allowing the audience to form an attachment with the characters or the story. Everything just seem s to follow too simply with not enough rationale to make the story resonate.