Proud at the King’s Head Theater
Life was never meant to be easy. Just when you think everything is fine, a curve ball is thrown at you and everything you knew is thrown into touch. In Bren Gosling’s play Proud at the King’s Head Theater we examine the effect of the curves of life on three very different men.
Roland (Taofique Folarin) has recently gone through two major life changes, and the two are intertwined. He first came out as gay, then his wife kicked him out of the family home. Gone, he now shares responsibility for their 15-year-old son, Gary (Kaine Hatukai), with whom he has always been close, and who now comes to stay at Roland’s apartment every fortnight or so. Roland loves his son very much and at this point he has another great love in his life: basketball. He often plays on the pitch at his local park, and it’s here that he meets Amir (Andrei Maniata), a street sweeper. Amir, who is a refugee, has his own problems. He suffers from PTSD and, due to his upbringing and culture, has great problems accepting himself. With his troubled friendship with Amir blossoming into something more, and Gary having trouble at school, Roland’s life becomes more complicated than he could ever imagine. But will everything work out and will he be able to get his life back on track?
Proud is a very intriguing story of love and acceptance that packs a lot into its 90 minute runtime. The problem for me was that he didn’t go far enough. Although it’s always good to ask ‘what happens next?’ I felt like there was an awful lot of trouble the moment the lights went out. Although I rarely ask for games to be longer, I think Proud could easily have been expanded into a two-act show.
The three characters, Roland, Amir and Gary, are beautifully drawn by writer Ben Gosling and each of them comes across as fully formed individuals trying to navigate an often confusing and disjointed world. If I’m being honest, I have to say that as characters, I only really enjoyed Amir. I found Roland unsympathetic and really lacking in empathy towards his son and Amir. As for Gary, well there were times when I thought to myself that if I had spoken to my father like Gary did to Roland, I would have been reminded that I was not too old to hide. However, even though I didn’t like the characters, the fact that I had such reactions to them speaks volumes about the quality of the acting, and all three should be commended for their display of acting.
Justin Nordello’s set is intriguing, using the lighting to move the action from a basketball court to Roland’s apartment and back again. And Marlie Hoco’s staging – which included some very impressive move routines set to music by Akos Lustyik – was assured and made great use of space, though, as always happens with a push scene , there were times when one of the actors would turn their back on part of the audience and block the view.
In summary, I enjoyed it very much. Proud. I think it was set with a certain purpose, but needed to be expanded to fit everything. However, the story itself is really good and the production works really well. Overall, while the ending may leave you wanting more, the production is definitely worth watching.
Review by Terry Eastham
Screenwriter Bren Gosling
Director and producer Marlie Haco
Double Telling Production Company
Scenographer and costume designer Justin Nardella
Composer and sound designer Ákos Lustyik
Lighting Designer Ben Jacobs
Stage Manager Martha Baldwin
Associate Producer Tom Woffenden
Roland Taofique Folarin
Amir Andrei Maniata
Gary Kaine Hatukai
February 22 – March 12, 2022
The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper St, Islington, London, N1 1QN