Review / Chilver’s play contrasts past and present gay history

play / ’78 Reasons To Stay The Night, written and directed by Trevar Alan Chilver, at The Courtyard, Canberra Theatre Centre, to August 6. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

AS gay people continue to struggle to obtain equal rights and with the ongoing debate over marriage equality, local writer Trevar Alan Chilver’s play, “’78 Reasons To Stay The Night” looks back at the very different world Australian gay men faced in 1978.

In the play, a young rent boy has a sex appointment with a 71-year-old. Afterwards, the boy listens to the older man’s reminiscences about the 1978 Mardi Gras clash with police in Sydney and other shocking incidents that were part of being gay at that time. These stories have quite an impact on the boy, making him think about his own situation and current gay issues.

In this production, we don’t know enough about the three characters’ backgrounds or motivations to feel any real empathy, the relationships between the characters aren’t realistic and the young men’s decisions at the end of the play lack believability.

Playing the elderly man, Kerin O’Brien read his role with script in hand for the play’s duration. Whatever the reason for this, it severely limited his performance. Brandon J. Davenport as the young rent boy was inaudible for much of the time and his performance lacked energy. David Greiss, as the rent boy’s best friend, was unconvincing in his emotional scenes, which were not well written.

The idea behind this play is a good one. There are strong and interesting stories to tell about the vastly different experiences of older and younger gay men in this country where so much has changed in the past fifty years. While a lot of research has obviously been done on the history of the time, Chilver’s play fails to satisfy in writing, performance and direction.

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