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Monday 08 November 2010


Our mates, and our lovers

Posted in: Performance
By Jacqui Stanford - 6th November 2010

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Actors Paora Taurima and Simon K. Leary

They may be taking on a multitude of roles, but there's something very personal about the stories actors Paora Taurima and Simon K. Leary are bringing to the stage this month.

The twosome are the entire cast for the Auckland season of Mates and Lovers, a play developed from the award-winning gay history book of Chris Brickell, by director Ronald Trifero Nelson.

The play, which has been redeveloped and re-cast since its sell-out Wellington debut season, will be on stage for ten nights at Auckland's Basement Theatre from 17 November. It features the many stories in Brickell's book, giving a series of snapshots of New Zealand's gay history with the two actors portraying many men who lived it. It will be hilarious, personal, heartbreaking and in some parts, well pretty explicit.

Leary has been rehearsing with Taurima for more than a month now, after jumping at the chance to be involved when he read about the search for a second actor through GayNZ.com.

He is in his final year of study at Toi Whakaari and has also been rehearsing for his final production, but the drama school has been supportive by arranging his schedule around Mates and Lovers.

"I've had a bit of a gay year," he laughs. "I've been quite interested in exploring that side of myself. I've played mostly straight roles until now but I am a young gay man, so I think there's potential for me to get into that market a bit more."

When I jokingly ask how the chemistry between the two actors is coming along, considering how intimate they must be on stage, he jokes that "the sexual chemistry is fantastic".

Both have boyfriends, however, who I guess are used to being with the demands of performance life and putting up with the fact that the two-man cast has mandatory things like "naked day".

Nelson promises the nudity in the show is 'powerful stuff' and needs rehearsing. "We do it in a way that will have an effect on the audience. And in the same way we need to prepare for that as well."

The esteemed Tai Royal has put together an entire new choreography for the show. Nelson approached him and asked him to get involved for his first season of Mates and Lovers in Wellington, but Royal was unavailable - so he jumped at the chance to contribute for the re-worked Auckland season. He says the movement for a dance between two of the many characters, Ben and Toby, is quite minimal.

Ben and Toby are the names Nelson has given the two mysterious men who grace the cover of the Brickell's book.

"It's a very loving sort of choreography," Royal says. "The relationship between the two characters, between Ben and Toby, it's just showing their relationship and how that develops. The choreography is pretty simple. And there is a little dance scene in the middle where they characters do a bit of Chattanooga Choo Choo, a bit of period dancing."

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Royal recalls flipping through the pages of Brickell's book and recognising people in the photographs. "It's part of my history," he says.

Leary agrees with the statement, saying since he came out he's been taking quite an interest in current gay events so he has enjoyed the experience of looking back on where he has come from. "And really trying to embody the people that have existed and to have these stories, these wonderful stories, that I think do need to be told."

Taurima says as he read the book he became fascinated with an uncle he never knew, who he has since come to believe was gay. "I feel like I'm telling his side of the story because he would have lived through a lot of the stuff that we are doing now. So things like that make it personal to me."

It's a show which is bound to be personal to many.

Mates & Lovers
by Ronald Trifero Nelson
The untold lives of our brothers, sons and fathers.
8pm Wed 17 November- Saturday 27 November
Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland
Tickets: $23 waged / $20 unwaged / $18 Groups 6+
Bookings: http://www.iticket.co.nz/ 0508 iticket www.basementspace.co.nz


Jacqui Stanford - 6th November 2010

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