by Alexi Kaye Campbell
Directed by Jamie Lloyd
Pros: The acting is very strong, and there is a nice balance between drama and humour.
Cons: With the exception of one scene, there is little action or movement on stage. Also, the set is not particularly inspiring.
Our Verdict: This thought-provoking play accurately captures the past and the present, in terms of male sexual identity. The performances are honest, and there is great character development.
The Pride explores changing attitudes towards homosexuality by comparing the lives of gay men in the 1950s, with those living and loving today. As well as highlighting how far the movement has come in achieving social acceptance and equality – the historical essay included in the program provides a thorough breakdown of events over the last 60 years – it also shows how gay men are still struggling to live honest lives.
This is the third production staged as part of the Trafalgar Transformed season. Each play included in the programme is politically charged, and linked by a social conscience and a desire to analyse the psychology of the modern world. The Pride holds a mirror up – literally – to the world we live in. As a member of the audience, a member of society, and a gay man, I find it hard to believe the way things used to be, as depicted in this show. Equally, I am proud to see real change is possible.
The play opens in the 1950s. Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton) and his wife Sylvia (Hayley Atwell) are having a pre-dinner drink with Oliver (Al Weaver), Sylvia’s new work colleague. As the conversation flows it becomes clear Oliver and Philip recognise each other from a prior occasion. However, with Sylvia present, neither seems willing to admit where they met. The following scene is set in the present. Highly promiscuous Oliver (same actor, different character) is trying to persuade his ex-boyfriend Philip (same actor, different character) to give him, and their relationship another chance. Philip listens, but ultimately is not convinced. The play then switches between both stories, tracing the way each of the male characters deals with their sexual identity. It also follows Sylvia, who finds herself in an unhappy marriage, and desires to live a more honest life herself.
The transitions between the different times are clearly distinguished. A quick costume change, or a sound effect helps the audience turn the page. Personally I wish it wasn’t so structured. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard is a play exploring the same sort of relationship between past and present. The final scene in Arcadia takes place in two different eras. The action and characters from each era effectively share the same setting and run their scenes concurrently. I thought this convention would have worked well in The Pride – a perfect tool to juxtapose the two eras – and would have created an interesting dynamic on stage. None the less, the story flows clearly and coherently.
There’s not much to say about the set, costumes or use of the stage, as there is not much to the set, costumes or use of stage. However the strong performances from all cast members fill the entire space. It is worth noting, there is a credit in the program for the ‘Fight Director’ and a disclaimer on the play’s website warning about ‘scenes of sexual nature’. In the final scene of the first act, this all becomes clear. It is a very confronting and dramatic display, and is one of the only action sequences in the show; the play is otherwise driven entirely by dialogue.
The staging of this play is timely, given recent events in Russia, and it is clear audiences are taking the whole thing more seriously. During the curtain call, the four cast members held placards: ‘To Russia, With Love’. The applause got louder. One of the key messages repeated throughout this play is to trust in the certainty, one day it is going to be all right. I hope this proves true for all in Russia.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
The Pride runs at Trafalgar Studios until November 9th.
Box Office: 0844 871 7632 or book online at http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-pride/trafalgar-studios/