Review- The Pride- Aurora Theatre


By Harley Schumann




The title of the show, as well as the rainbow-coloured motif in the promotional material, might lead you to expect a run-of-the-mill LGBTIQ rights piece. These can sometimes be a bit hackneyed or suffer from
platitudes that don’t necessarily challenge the majority of Hong Kong theatregoers, at least not anymore. But this play is far more nuanced: it is about sexuality, to be sure,  and it certainly focuses on LGBTIQ issues. Yet it delves deeply into the complexity of those issues and raises questions for the audience without necessarily pushing a moral point. 


Instead, it uses the topic of sexuality as a lens through which it explores the contrary themes of freedom and restriction, compliance and deviance, desire and disgust, shame and (you guessed it) pride.


The show weaves together two stories. One set in the past (circa the 1950s) and one in the present. The characters in both times are the same, but they are also different, of course, because their worlds are
different; in this way, the two time periods are presented as parallel universes. In each, our characters are cursed with dealing with the fallout from exploring their own sexuality, which is perceived by their respective
universe as nonstandard and therefore taboo. Neither universe is painted altogether positively, though as you might hope, the present fairs significantly better than the past.


There are moments of considerable emotional intensity, perhaps sometimes deserving of a trigger warning (if you have seen it, you will know the scene to which I am referring). But knitted throughout is a charmingly dark and surreal sense of humour that allows the audience some comfort in what might otherwise be a demanding play. There is also a slight undercurrent of the script that predicts a progressively brighter future, which gives the play a flavour of hope.


It is a difficult play to perform because even though it is all about relationships, there is little in the script itself
that informs us about the connections between the characters. The majority of the characters’ development comes from glances and silences, rather than from the dialogue itself,  so it is a testament to the strength of
this cast that there is genuine and palpable chemistry between the characters, which induces in us sincere care and concern for them.

The cast members are all solid, though the stand-out performance is Phillip Smith in the main role of Oliver. The character at times requires an unspoken sexual tension to rise up through reserved British politeness, which is tricky but executed well by Smith. Smith’s charismatic portrayal allows the audience simultaneously to love him and to judge him, which is precisely what this play requires.


Also notable is Charles Slater who plays several smaller parts throughout the show. Although all “bit parts”, his scenes are arguably some of the most important in the play because his characters provide a window into the
outside world beyond the main characters. So it is extremely important these scenes are performed well, and Slater certainly rises to this challenge.


There are also good supporting performances by Miguel Urmeneta and Namrata Bindra who play Philip and Sylvia. Bindra, in particular, provides an artfully restrained performance which could all too easily be


The direction is simple but effective, as is the stage design and use of the difficult space in the Fringe Club. However, at times certain scenes feel like they could be tighter, or at least increased in tempo. The show went
long on the night I attended, which had the unfortunate consequence that the second half shared its audio with the swing band next door (but that is theatre after all).


Overall another strong performance from Aurora Theatre, and a formidable production of a challenging play.


This production has now closed.

Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 2.5


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