Reviewed by Michaela Clement Hayes
Trafalgar Studios – 14th August 2013
The Pride, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first play, won several awards when it premiered in 2008 and it has now been revived at Trafalgar Studios.
The play begins in 1958 where Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton) is entertaining Oliver (Al Weaver) his wife’s boss. Although the conversation is awkward until Philip’s wife Sylvia (Hayley Attwell) arrives, there is a clear attraction between the two men, even though at first Philip seems unaware that he is flirting with Oliver.
Suddenly, in comes Matthew Horne dressed as a Nazi and sporting a German accent. Confusing to say the least, until we realise we’ve skipped forward fifty years and he is an escort, hired for (another man called) Oliver’s pleasure.
Horne turns up again later as a magazine editor and psychiatrist, playing each of his three roles well, particularly the 1950s psychiatrist which is a refreshing change from many of his roles.
The story flicks between the two decades; in 2008 however, Philip and Oliver have recently split up and Sylvia is the understanding best friend.
There is a stark contrast between the two stories as in the 1950s Philip is unhappily married and denying his feelings for Oliver, whereas in the 21st century the two men are openly living together until their split.
Extremely graphic in places, the story touches on the changing attitudes to homosexuality and the lengths people had to go to hide it. The messages are still relevant today; the play ending with the cast holding up signs emblazoned ‘To Russia with Love’.
The stage is simple yet effective, a perfectly adequate size for four actors. Atwell’s two characters are perhaps the most distinctive, the audience unsure at first if they are both played by her. She is a strong actor, effortlessly switching from the proper 50s housewife to the modern day girl – her body language completely different.
Weaver and Hadden-Paton have a believable chemistry and they capture the awkwardness of first meetings where there is instant attraction quite well. However, it does feel a little too awkward at some points, with pauses a little too long in places.
As Act One ends, the audience are left slightly shocked by some of the action, but Act Two leans towards a happy ending, at least for the 2008 characters. It’s London Pride and the group are sitting happily in the park – the stark contrast between modern society’s acceptance and equality for all.
Although the story was cleverly done, it was slightly too long and certain scenes felt a bit slow in places. But it was still a thought-provoking, well-acted piece of theatre. It shows that although many people still struggle to be accepted, we’ve actually come a long way in a short time.