Gay-up Storytelling [by James Wenley]
The passing of this bill will validate my place in society. It does nothing for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples that have gone before me and had to hide their relationships. It does wonders for those of us that will be able to enjoy it at this time of great change. Most of all though, it moves mountains for future New Zealanders, who will live in a time where its normal to be able to love whoever they want to. When we start telling our kids and grandkids that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is okay, they will stop killing themselves. They will feel like contributing members of society. They will go on to lead honest, fulfilling lives and want to find someone to love and build a life with. – Tamati Coffey, quoted in the NZ Herald yesterday morning before the passing of the marriage amendment bill.
I got home from seeing Queen at the Basement Studio in time to catch Green MP Kevin Hague’s speech on Parliament TV. A powerful oration, it was poignant not only for the expression of his own personal experience, but the reading from submitters’ comments about their experiences too. In the third reading, politicians like Ruth Dyson and Nikki Kaye also spoke of the “powerful stories” that had been told by LGBT New Zealanders as the bill made its gay way through parliament. Today, the majority of New Zealanders are basking in the feel-good idealism of marriage equality. “Welcome to the mainstream” extended National’s Tau Henare.
Queen by playwright Sam Brooks, which examines the gay experience, could not have had a better programmed season.
By placing the play in the context of the marriage equality debate, I do not mean to suggest that Brooks is flying a political flag. Nor is it preachy. Nor does the marriage question play into its drama. It’s political only in that the play presents stories, and says these stories matter. Similar to Victor Rodger’s Black Faggot, it tells a collage of different stories that expand on one identifier of people’s identity. Both plays realize the value of concentrating the universal onto the level of the individual personal. Indeed, what got through to the politicians, and helped shape public opinion, was those very stories.
Teen angst on overdrive [by James Wenley]
Pity the British teenager. There’s something about the British school system that has seen it spawn more than its fair share of films, television and plays eviscerating the subject. Alan Bennett’s thoughtful The History Boys, which Punk Rock has been compared to, took a fairly noble approach to student’s studying their final exam. Punk Rock by Simon Stephens is something else entirely. While presenting as a familiar story of a group of grammar school sixth formers studying for their A levels, it explodes into a punishing indictment on the horrors of high school and the teenage wasteland.
School uniforms don’t stop Punk Rock’s characters from expressing their identities – it’s all how you wear your blazer. Opening loud to a suitably raucous punk song, a recognisable assortment of archetypes parade around the stage. There’s the tightly buttoned nerd, the suggestive hottie, the sloppily dressed bully, and the guy so cool he gets away with wearing a non-regulation jacket. Within seconds, the nerd’s pants have been pulled down and carted offstage. Ah, so that’s how it’s going to be.