The New Zealand Herald
Play takes on tough issue of gay pardons
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Amy Adams announced a law reform allowing New Zealand men with historic convictions for homosexual acts to be pardoned.
It follows recent law changes in the United Kingdom which were sparked when WWII code breaker Alan Turing received a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.
For local playwright Stephen Lunt, the move doesn’t go far enough. He sees it as only one step, saying there are still men who are excluded from applying and it’s unclear whether families can apply on behalf of a deceased relative.
“A lot of the reports praise it as solving the problem but it hasn’t, not at all,” Lunt says.
“When the UK first announced it, only about 350 people applied and since then only 86 have been pardoned. I feel like there has been one step. More work needs to be done by the Government.”
Lunt tackles the issue in his new play, Pardon Me Alan Turing, at Te Pou theatre as part of the Auckland Fringe and Pride festivals. It focuses on Turing and Oscar Wilde through the eyes of a journalist looking into the logistics of getting gay men pardoned.
“I liked the idea of these two meeting up, given how completely different they were,” Lunt says.
The flashbacks consider the difficulties the men faced in their personal lives, facing similar reactions from family and friends despite moving in different social circles.
While it proves an important lesson on the lives of two famous gay men, the play also tackles the question of why Turing was originally alone in being pardoned, whereas those such as Wilde had to wait to have their convictions cleared. It also asks if the pardon is enough.
“Because it’s been centuries of laws that have discriminated against homosexuality, and the damage done by governments and societies, it’s going to take . . . a long time to rectify, if ever,” Lunt says.
The timing of the announcement makes the new play feel slightly dated, but it gets an edge by dissecting the problems that surround the pardoning laws. While Lunt agrees a blanket pardon wouldn’t work, he thinks that more needs to be done, particularly in New Zealand where pardons will be reviewed on a caseby-case basis.