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Controversial "Queer Classic" Returns to the Stage

26 May 2005

Controversial "Queer Classic" Returns to the Stage

Nearly forty years after the "Stonewall Riots", which many say mark the beginning of the modern gay movement, Auckland's Silo theatre brings Boys in the Band back to life, 15 June - 2 July.

This ground breaking play became a lightning rod for public discussion after its first performance off-Broadway in 1968. Boys in the Band was the first play to portray gay men and deal realistically with homosexuality before a mainstream audience.

Not only was the subject matter controversial but never before had a play been staged with a full cast of homosexuals - it was the mainstream's first peek into that great social bubble - the closet!

With it's quick one-liners such as, "Who do I have to fuck to get a drink around here," famously used by Princess Margaret, this play does for gay life what Albee's Virginia Woolf does for marriage - it blows the lid off the joint!

Boys in the Band was written by Mart Crowley in 1968, a year before gay consciousness erupted in a series of notorious skirmishes between gays and police known as the "Stonewall Riots" in New York's Greenwich Village, 27 June 1969.

The play and following film (1970), directed by William Friedkin, enjoyed critical acclaim- hailed as "Unquestionably a milestone," by The Los Angeles Times and "A humane moving picture" by Time magazine. Film critic Vito Russo said Boys in the Band provided "the most potent argument for gay liberation ever offered in a popular art form."

Set at a birthday-cum-cocktail party at Michael's (Stephen Butterworth) upscale Greenwich Village apartment seven gay men are joined by two unexpected straight visitors. As they night progresses and the men get increasingly drunk their good natured banter turns spiteful.

Crowley's depiction of homosexual men snarling with cynicism, snapping with pessimism, and limping from the wounds of unrequited love displeased gay activists at the time who said it perpetuated ignorant stereotyping that was breed in locker rooms. Crowley argues the story reflects an era in which homosexuality was seen as both a mental illness and a crime.

Boys' confronts social politics in a way that even now feels shockingly fresh.

In the Silo's presentation of Boys in the Band, director Jonathan Hendry keeps the sixties culture alive adding a contemporary twist. He says, "This is a time of reflection, when we acknowledge what has gone before. Many of the issues raised in Boys in the Band, such as open relationships and the search for contentment, are still hovering."

It is a good time to ask how far have we come, and to understand the trauma of the closet, with its power to contain or release an individual, is still very much with us.

directed by JONATHON HENDRY, featuring, SHANE BOSHER (Shopping & F***ing; A Star is Torn),
FASITUA AMOSA (A Clockwork Orange; The Insider's Guide to Happiness), SIMON LONDON (The Scentless Apprentice; Mr Kolpert), EDWIN WRIGHT (Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love), CRAIG HALL (The Strip), alongside STEPHEN BUTTERWORTH, HEATH JONES, JAKE LINDESAY & EDWARD PENI.


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