Theatre Review: The Brave
Massive Theatre Company
Mangere Arts Centre
August 10, 2013
In The Brave, actor Beulah Koale talks about the difficulty of presenting his different faces to the world. The slang-talking, laid-back “mate” face is a comfy mask to bear but he would shrivel in shame should his buddies see him slip on the serious mask that he employs for theatre foyer discussions about his craft. It’s a lovely moment in the play because it is both personal and universal. Everyone knows what it’s like to portray ourselves differently in different situations.
The actors in The Brave face up to the things that scare them the most. In doing so, they bare their different faces, and all feel resolutely honest. The young men are angry, cheeky, tormented, playful, frustrated, respectful, yearning. Their stories span family relationships, violence, girl fears, ambitions, body image and sexual identity. That sounds heavy – and it can be – but directors Sam Scott and Carla Martell deftly inject lightness and humour. The direction is a considerable feat considering they have only the actors on a bare stage to work with. This is theatre at its most minimal, and affecting.
The connection between this group of diverse actors stretches back a long time and it shows. The Brave premiered last April, drawing together eight young male actors from different cultural backgrounds. Each has his turn in the spotlight. In this format it’s difficult not to compare – even search for some sense of competition – but macho one-upmanship is refreshingly absent. The cast step forward to support their mates during gruelling stories. In the funny bits, they’re grinning in the background.
In the year and a bit since The Brave premiered some of its faces have become more recognisable. Koale, age 21, has appeared on stage and put in an impressive turn as the conflicted criminal in television cop drama Harry. His return to The Brave shows his maturation into an actor with enthralling magnetic intensity. Todd Emerson’s profile on stage and screen also continues to grow. His tale about a gay teenager was expertly pitched to resonate broadly with anyone who has felt like an outsider, or anyone who has treated an outsider thoughtlessly. On the upbeat side, Scott Cotter delivers comic relief with impeccable timing.
The start of the show is patchy and slow to take hold, with the early movement sequences coming across too much like drama class exercises but when The Brave hits its straps it strikes moments of searing transformative truth. It gifts ideas to take home, treasure and contemplate. “This is me,” the actors declare at the opening and closing of the play. This is them. This is us.
August 14 and 15, Theatre Lab, Massey University, Albany. Touring New Plymouth, Hamilton, Hastings, Tauranga.
Image: Carly Van Winkel