Tuesday 17 September 2013

The Pride @ Trafalgar Studios

Playwright Alexi Campbell may have written The Pride back in 2008, but in today's world of sexual liberation, legal same-sex marriage and Russian repression - a world where homosexuality is at the forefront of social and political consciousness - Campbell's play is more topical, pertinent and important than ever.

The Pride has a dual narrative of two parallel stories depicting homosexual relationships.  In the 1950s, Oliver (Al Weaver) is a children's author who embarks on an illicit affair with a married man - Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton), the husband of his illustrator Sylvia (Hayley Atwell).  In this time, the word 'homosexual' alone is enough to leave a heavy silence hanging in the air.  Gay relationships are full of secrets and deception and, in the case of Philip, seen as a mental illness to be cured through horrific psychotherapy.

Flash forward to present day and we meet a new Oliver: a recently single man addicted to anonymous sex.  'Queer' may no longer be a dirty word with society more open to same-sex relationships, but violence still occurs with many gay men exiled to parks, phone applications and (hilarious) roleplay.  The narrative across both time periods forces all the characters to ask themselves fundamental questions about commitment, relationships, marriage and having pride in oneself.

The parallel stories are reflected by the over-sized, decaying mirror that forms the backdrop of the set.  With the audience visible in the reflection, we are literally forced to question our own views - are they as archaic and decrepit as the mirror?  As the plot flows naturally from scene to scene, clever staging places each time frame in direct juxtaposition.  It shows just how far society have come in their views since the 1950s and equally how far we still have to go - something that's further communicated with the 'To Russia With Love' placards during the bows.

There are some hilarious comedic moments, largely stemming from Matthew Horne in a series of cameos.  Yet this is a human drama with serious intent.  Weaver, Atwell and Hadden-Paton all cope well with creating distinct characters for the differing time frames using Campbell's contrast of clipped English and a modern conversational style in the script.  We come to empathise with each characters' plight and perhaps to admire their strength as we invest heavily in their emotional journeys.

The result is a play that is an open, honest and truthful look at homosexuality ripe with political significance; a play that puts into sharp relief the differing views not only from the last sixty years but across nations today.


Watch: The Pride runs until November 9th at Trafalgar Studios.