A matter of pride [by Sharu Delilkan]
A heterosexual woman at the helm of a thrilling contemporary narrative predominantly focussed on the gay issues could have been a point of concern. But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Sophie Roberts' role as director for The Pride.
Her history of working on productions with gay themes has made her role in The Pride a natural progression in her career.
“I have done quite a few gay-oriented plays so I am quite comfortable dealing with those issues. I also like working with or highlighting the perspective of people on the fringes of society. I find such work more interesting and enjoy working in that territory. I strongly believe that theatre has a social and political function, which is why I seek out work that talks about these issues. And the fact that the gay marriage bill coming up in parliament gives the content of the play a lot more weight and relevance,” she says.
But although it’s very much a play set in a gay world, Roberts says “ultimately the play has themes that anyone who has been in a relationship will recognise, and can connect to. It is basically a play about how difficult it is to change or evolve for love. Everyone can plug into those bigger themes.”
The Pride marked the playwriting debut of Alexi Kaye Campbell in November 2008, taking London’s Royal Court Theatre by storm. Interchanging between two different times, Campbell’s work is elegiac in tone but thrilling in its treatment. Campbell’s trail-blazing debut earned him the Critics Circle Award, the John Whiting Award, a GLAAD Award and a Laurence Olivier Award. The New York premiere went on to star hot young things Ben Whishaw, Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough.
The NZ stellar cast includes Kip Chapman (Lobby Hero, Apollo 13: Mission Control, Black Confetti), Simon London (When The Rain Stops Falling) and Dena Kennedy (Yours Truly) and Sam Snedden (Yours Truly and Loot).
Although this is only the second Silo production that Roberts is directing she has obviously won artistic director Shane Bosher’s confidence in her abilities.
To quote him: “Sophie is a true next generation talent. She’s got an original caste of mind which deftly translates into bold storytelling; she’s exacting in detail and has a huge generosity of spirit’”
Bosher goes on to say that The Pride “is a wonderful challenge for a director. You have to achieve a breadth of tone, very specific period style and bold, emotional performances from the actors. Sophie’s courage and craft and her love of punchy narrative drive made her the perfect candidate for this gig. I think audiences are going to love what she’s done with this beautiful play.”
Roberts says she has known Bosher since she graduated from Toi Whakaari in 2007.
“He had seen my work and we have built up a working relationship through that. Having been approached by Shane to direct I love You Bro, I knew he was interested in me directing another play this year. The great thing about Silo is that once you work with them, they like having on-going relationships with people. And it is great that Shane is committed to supporting my career development.”
The Pride plays at the Herald Theatre from 10 August to 1 September. Details see Silo.