The Pride written by Alexi Kaye-Campbell has been especially well chosen by the Lace Market Theatre season programmers. Alongside the more familiar fare designed to attract the traditional theatre goer The Pride stands out as being a more contemporary piece about homosexual relations interestingly placed simultaneously in 1958 and 2008. It offers a feast of opportunities to use the finest standards of amateur acting and directing. It delves into subjects that perhaps some amateur groups may shy away from but are important and relatable journeys in the human experience whatever ones sexuality. As an audience member it is vital that one brings some maturity and open-mindedness to the proverbial table as the play features adult themes, scenes of outdated therapy techniques to ‘cure’ homosexuality and sexual assault. 16+ is suggested due to the nature and language of the play.
The Pride premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in November 2008, and received the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright. The production was also awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. The play received its American premiere at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York, in 2010. It was revived at the Trafalgar Studios, London, in 2013. Alexi Kaye Campbell’s other plays include Apologia (Bush Theatre, London, 2009), The Faith Machine (Royal Court, London, 2011) and Bracken Moor (Shared Experience at the Tricycle Theatre, London, 2013).
If this introduction makes The Pride sound mega serious ( and a goodly proportion of it is) it is balanced out with some great witty lines and funny circumstances. It is also very moving in parts and is no holds barred honest in its language.
The piece is exquisitely and sensitively directed by Chris Sims who has chosen to stage it on a brilliant set (set design by Steve Musson) that gradually deconstructs itself between the scenes from 1958 to those in 2008. As the walls fall away leaving black rectangular holes in the fabric of home and safety we are intriguingly presented with what is a essentially a compellingly strong piece of modern meta -theatre that dramatically seeks to question vastly different social rules in two eras of British history. It is an education in more ways than one and act two gives us an uncomfortable insight into what were considered okay treatments for removing homosexual desire and even endorsed by men who felt terribly guilty about their loving feelings and lusts for a same sex partner. If theatre is thought of as a champion of enlightenment then The Pride succeeds admirably.
The Pride is graced with four very fine and professional performances by Jack Leo (Philip), Danielle Easter (Sylvia), Jak Truswell (Oliver) and Danny Shooter as The man/Doctor/ Peter. Other characters are alluded to. The Pride requires brave and solid acting that can take direction and enable the sometimes challenging work of depicting the interconnecting stories of gay life for men and to skip along at a good pace. This cast has all those qualities on spades and they deliver both the naturalistic and dramatic text brilliantly as well as the physical demands.
This play isn’t just about the difficulties of being homosexual. It discusses universal themes of betrayal and loneliness. Three of the key speeches come from Oliver and discuss strong hopes of change in society’s attitudes towards the Gay population and self-recognition.
OLIVER. Well, that one day, maybe many, many years from now, there will be an understanding of certain things, a deeper understanding of certain aspects of our natures that would make all the difficulties we now feel, all the fears we now hold onto and the sleepless nights we now have seem almost worthwhile… And that the people who live in those times, be it fifty or five hundred years from now will be happy with that understanding and wiser for it. Better.
OLIVER. And you said they were demanding the dignity that comes with being heard. Not responded to. Just heard. The dignity that comes with being heard. The privilege of having a voice.
OLIVER. All my life I’ve been waiting for some sort of confirmation that I’m not alone.
Sylvia expounds on the subject of truth and the daily struggle of having to live with lies. “Then the foundations of everything you’ve ever depended on, the ground you’ve moved on, the home you’ve built for yourself, everything, the walls, the furniture, the air you breathe, everything seems unreal. And you cease to be able to distinguish truth from lies. Or at least from something you know is not the truth. An appearance of sorts. Life becomes a little like some horrible fancy-dress party. And it becomes unbearable.”
This ascribed situation is very moving and good relatable writing regardless of one’s sexual persuasion. Her very last cathartic speech in the play ends on releasing the torments of blame and on a note of positivity. And this is what I carry away into the dark, cold and wet streets of Nottingham as I go homeward bound.
The Pride is play that the Lace Market Theatre should be proud of presenting and presenting with such wonderful direction and a terrific cast. Very highly recommended.