Jamie Lloyd’s trilogy of ‘Trafalgar Transformed’ productions reaches an exhilarating climax with this exemplary staging of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s award-winning gay play, ‘The Pride.’
This time-travelling tale of queer love and gay sensibilities was a critical success when first staged five years’ ago at the Royal Court, and it’s lost none of its impact as this timely revival confirms.
The play begins in the ‘50s where we’re introduced to the three characters around whom ‘The Pride’ revolves. Sylvia (Hayley Atwell) is married to Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton), and when she introduces her colleague Oliver (Al Weaver) to him, the air is thick with tension. It soon becomes apparent that the there’s a mutual attraction between the two men, but for Philip these feelings are too repellent for him to be able to acknowledge who he really is.
Flash forward fifty years and we’re in 2008 where we meet Philip and Oliver – the former having just ended their year and a bit relationship because to Philip’s insatiable lust for cock which, as he explains, he’ll go to almost any lengths to get. In this modern day scenario Sylvia becomes Oliver’s confidante in all things ‘matrimonial.’
Although times have changed, and the issues which plagued the 50s around the fundamental existence of being gay are now a thing of the past, what ‘The Pride’ tells us is that issues still exist, but pent up sexual tension and repression have been replaced with issues concerning fidelity and, well, sluttishness.
The time-travelling works brilliantly and Campbell’s writing is so assured, acerbic, witty and spot-on, that the cast have an abundance of dialogue which allows them to shine. Hayley Atwell is as at home with her 50s crystalline-cut vowels as she is as a contemporary young ambitious woman. Al Weaver manages to be both sympathetic and outrageous as Oliver. Harry Hadden-Paton delivers a tour de force performance as pent-up Philip, his anger and betrayal of Oliver’s love is both shocking and painful to watch.
Mathew Horne is also in his element in a series of cameos which includes an hilarious Nazi rentboy, and a creepy doctor who tries to ‘cure’ Philip of his ‘homosexual tendencies.’
Much of ‘The Pride’ is side-splittingly funny, but its brilliance really lies in its ability to capture the essence of what it must have been like to be gay in the ‘50s, and to deliver a true snapshot of how things have and haven’t changed.
Slick, brilliantly acted and staged, ‘The Pride is essential viewing.’ The cast brought on ‘To Russia With Love’ placards during the curtain calls. A nice touch, and a salutary reminder that as we move forward, others return to the Dark Ages.