78 Reasons To Stay The Night
Written, directed and produced by Trevar Alan Chilver. The Courtyard Studio. Canberra Theatre Centre. August 2 – 6 2017. Bookings 62435711
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Kevi O'Brien, Daniel Greiss,Brandon J Davenport|
Community Theatre lends a voice to the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the powerless in the face of oppression, prejudice and injustice. It also serves to recognize minority groups so that they may gain the strength to receive support and recognition within the total community and the legislation of their land. Plays such as Trevar Alan Chilver’s latest work, 78 Reasons to Stay The Night may well offer a voice to those marginalized members of the LGBTI community who continue to exist in the shadows of wider social acceptance. A production of this play is therefore vitally important, and although I fear that it may simply be a platform for the converted and members of the isolated victims of social alienation, I would hope that Chilver’s skill as a playwright and devotion to the cause of members of the LGBTI community may reach out to many who regard the LGBTI community as an aberration of the “norm"
The play is simple in its concept. Malcolm is an ageing and infirm gay. He paraded proudly with the pioneers of the Mardi Gras movement in 1978, but now, forty years later his health has deteriorated as has his physical beauty. He resorts to the comfort and company of a rent boy, Tony, on a relatively regular basis to relieve his loneliness and sexual needs. On this occasion, Tony is unable to keep an appointment and asks his friend, Billy, another rent boy to take the appointment. Malcolm is at first resistant to any of Billy’s advances, and the tensions establish a barrier between 71 year old Malcolm and the 21 year old Rent Boy who was not born until the year of the eighteenth Mardi Gras.
What occurs throughout Chilver’s empathetic investigation of human need and gay love is a growing affection and alliance between two unlikely individuals. The play is primarily a duologue, outlining the history of the Gay Pride movement, its struggles and suffering at the hand of the law and the prejudicial attitudes of bigoted, “straight” individuals. Those of us who have lived through that time remember too well the Reverend Fred Nile. Billy’s generation are too aware of the barriers created by Pauline Hanson and her ilk.
The play is still a work in progress in the Courtyard Studio. A Qeen sized bed occupies most of the space and banners hang from the low ceiling saluting the Gays, the Queers and reminding us of their struggle with AIDS and battles to assert their human and legal rights. Through research and verbatim report, Chilver writes a dialogue that is authentic and written with evangelical zeal yet avoiding preaching and didactic commentary because of its focus on the feelings and thoughts of the individual characters. Although Brandon J Davenport as the Rent Boy Billy and Daniel Greiss as Tony work without script, Kevin O'Brien as Malcolm relies on a script which flattens his performance. Performances are honest and natural, and the audience is drawn into a story that is told with commitment. The play is too long at present and could be a one act revelation without an interval.
I was not surprised to find myself in the company with appreciative members of the LGBTI community, who watched an erotic, informative and honest celebration of a movement that is almost forty years old but still far from being acknowledged as another of Nature’s world with the same rights to be recognized, accepted and appreciated for the contribution that members of this community have made and continue to make to the creation of a better world.