Theatre review - The Pride

Posted on: 29 August 2013 by Laurence Green

Laurence Green reviews Alexi Kaye Campbell's The Pride, 'a resonant, heartfelt drama rich in ambiguities and unresolved issues'.

The PrideA poignant story of lost souls, betrayal and the courage it takes to be who you really are in a complex love triangle spanning over half a century is how you could describe Alexi Kaye Campbell's play the Pride, which was a huge success when it premiered at the small space at the Royal Court in 2008 and has now been revived at the Trafalgar Studios.

The year is 1958 and Philip and Sylvia, a seemingly happily married couple, are entertaining Oliver with drinks in their Pimlico flat before going to dinner. Oliver writes children's books, Philip is an estate agent and Sylvia a former actress now working as an illustrator for Oliver. The meeting quivers with awkwardness that hints at unspoken desires as the repressed Philip is guiltily attracted to Oliver.

We now move forward, 50 years and meet a different pair - also Oliver and Philip - who openly celebrate their sexuality at Gay pride but still struggle with their relationship because of Oliver’s attraction to anonymous sex. Indeed Oliver's promiscuity threatens to drive Philip away and he discusses this with his confidante (another Sylvia). She wants to focus on her own emotional life but is drawn in by Oliver's neediness.

Initially moving back and forth in time is confusing but by juxtaposing the restrictions on young gay men in the 1950s against the relative freedoms of our more liberal, hedonistic society today enables Campbell to provide a telling examination of the way attitudes to love and sex have changed, although heartaches and personal traumas still exist.

Director Jamie Lloyd coaxes smart performances from his cast of four. Harry Hadden-Paton hints at the subliminal connection between past and present as with Philip's concealing desire behind a mask of formal rectitude, while Al Weaver brings as articulate sensitivity to both Olivers. Hayley Atwell meanwhile, convincingly evokes the contrast between the wounded wife of the 1950s Sylvia and the loyal friend of her breezy loyal counterpart, while Matthew Horne provides comic relief as a male tart dressed in Nazi uniform, a doctor providing suspect therapies and wide-boy editor itching for a snazzy news story.

Admittedly, the play is more profound and tensions mores absorbing in the 50s scenes but this remains a resonant, heartfelt drama rich in ambiguities and unresolved issues.

The Pride plays at Trafalgar Studios until Saturday 9 November

Box office 0844 871 7632    

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