REVIEW: The Auckland Pride Gala 2018

By Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth

[Bursting with Pride]

Attending the Auckland Pride Gala is always a treat – especially since you never know what you’re gonna get.

And this year, marking the 6th anniversary of the Auckland Pride Festival, was no different.

In fact it was particularly brilliant because not only were we given a snapshot of the festival’s highlights, but there were also a few added gems that weren’t specifically part of the impending festival’s programme.

Director Jason Te Mete’s curation of the entire evening was absolutely spot on.  Right from Brady Peeti belting out Pasek and Paul’s This is Me (from The Greatest Showman) as a backdrop for Night of the Queer, to the finale of Fine Fatale, the pace and order of events couldn’t have been more perfect.  It was like watching a dramatic theatrical piece that starts with a bang, reels you into a false sense of security, reveals a number of surprises along the way, brings the occasional tear to your eyes, and culminates in a heightened crescendo.  And just when you think it can’t get any better, you’re treated to even more terrific talent.  We were spoilt for choice with the sheer pantheon of guest appearances from rainbow community icons.

Joyfully and warmly hosted by Labour MPs Tamati Coffey and Louisa Wall, it was indeed a star-studded event – The Rt Hon Helen Clark and her achievements in social progression taking front row.

As always. the Pride Gala showcases snippets of selected shows to come over the next couple of weeks – the weird, wonderful, woeful and wacky.

Following Brady Peeti’s explosive opening number (that brought the house down) was a sneaky peek into Legacy Project 5 with Hamish Annan’s thought-provoking piece sincerely expressed by Kurt Utai-Laurenson.  A great commentary on the range of terror and confusion experienced by the LGBTQQIAAP community.

Sir Dame Judy Ginger’s rendition of I Am What I Am was a triumph in performance art over talent and Sam Brook’s Twenty Eight Millimetres was a very heartfelt and real family discussion that truly touched both of us deeply.

Neil Thornton is a comedian that I’ve seen and appreciated before.  He was in especially good form tonight with this home and homey crowd.  Appropriately inappropriate, his totally ‘out there’ commentary pushed the boundaries, giving us a comedic breath of fresh air amongst the devlishy diverse acts.

The LnP Project  and Paul Ross gave well received musical performances while Courtney Dina Meredith’s performance poetry was a great advertisement for the Same Same but Different Writers Festival.

The two ‘overseas’ acts making up Red Room Cabaret were unexpected in the genre choices of choreographed burlesque/conga dancing and striptease pole dancing.  It certainly implied that there is more happening on Waiheke Island than meets the eye.

Tom Sainsbury made two appearances – both of which were downright hilarious.  His Portrayal of Paula Bennett during the Rainbow Pussies and Pooches segment was politically astute.  We couldn’t help noticing that The Rt Hon Helen Clark giggling and enjoying the pisstaking and parody.  His second presentation for the night was as teaser from his latest penned show Gays in Space.  This was also a crowd favourite and looks to be a ridiculously unique perspective, a must see in the Festival lineup.

Some of the second act was tinged with poignancy and sadness, giving everyone a reality check on what many have had to endure prior to recent triumphs, such as legalising same sex marriage.

The collage of stories of injustice in the 1980s and 90s AIDS epidemic had many in the audience in tears.  A brutal but gentle spoken-word tribute to many who died unappreciated and shamed was superbly juxtapositioned by the GALS choir and lead vocals of the talented Peeti.

Interluding the aforementioned shows were a series of lip-synced performances dramatically and bravely kicked off by Adeena Delight’s Come As You Are. The passionately performed drag numbers were clearly thoughtfully chosen to personify the pain, perseverance and joy of each individual’s personal experiences.

Natasha Wilson’s operatic performance, accompanied by David Kelly on the piano, was a masterclass in pure talent and skill.  Serious, self-evasive, humorous and tragic, this piece was the very essence of an opera in one set.  Genius, awesomely skillful and most definitely memorable.  A great way to entice people to see NZ Opera’s Live Drag! – An Opera In The Making.

A brave, inspired and inspiring choice for the final act, Fine Fatale, took our breath away.  As pure skill, grace and expression this performance was sublime.  A worthy and fitting end to this wonderful evening.

The Auckland Pride Gala 2018 was held at Q. 

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