Written in 2008, The Pride was born inside the bubble of rising gay culture at the turning point when the movement for equality would either sink or swim. The story is told through two separate narratives, one in 1958 and the other 2013, allowing the play to view attitudes to homosexuality in two different eras. In the final scene, 1958 Sylvia leaves us with a monologue ending with the repetition of ‘It will be alright.’ If The Pride has a distinct message it is that. Having said that, although it might have a positive title, The Pride also lays bare the negative and wholly destructive
side of love, in all forms. This is a play that studies the journey from shame to pride.
Though each character represents this duality, it is the character of Sylvia (in both her 1958 and 2013 incarnations) who is the clearest personification of it. Played by Hayley Atwell, the character flips between a 1958 actress turned house wife to the 2013 rock for Oliver. The development of the character rests mainly in the 1958 era, as her 2013 incarnation is really used to keep the plot moving. What we do see in 1958 Sylvia is a transformation almost identical to that of Nora in Ibsen’s Doll’s House. Atwell’s acting is instinctual, so honest as to be totally disarming. But none of the four actors ever fall short, Al Weaver as Oliver perfectly portrays the desperation of someone in love with the unachievable. His nuanced performance delivers the wit demanded for the role of the 2013 incarnation and also the enduring spirit of survival found in the 1958 period.
This duality of character is shown in the set. An enormous mirror dominates the space. Obscured by a Spartan scattering of furniture, it is also burnt and distressed. This detail demands to be noticed, and when considered retrospectively it is an illustration of the play’s love story (this being between both incarnations of Oliver and Philip). Much like the mirror their relationship is charred and almost devoid of light. Harry Hadden-Paton as Philip elicits the most sympathy, especially in his final scene as the 1958 incarnation. Taken as a whole, his character develops the most until the final scene of the play where his easy chemistry with Al Weaver’s Oliver is quite charming.
The boldest moments of acting are those of silence. These instances of reflection are rare enough to totally hold the audience’s attention and under scrutiny it is fair to say that these actors truly come into their own –they are completely entrancing. The most searing moment of silence comes in Matthew Horne’s second character of Peter, a magazine editor in 2013 who wants to employ Oliver. The character is all bravado and over exuberance so the story he shares is totally unexpected – but then a silence comes from him, he suddenly looks incredibly lost and alone and the comedy of the character is completely ripped away to show us this painfully aware man.
The Pride isn’t scared of itself or what it has to say. The writing grabs hold of you and forces you on the journey from shame to pride that the characters experience. Though at times dark, laughter or lightmoments are never far away. It is credit to Alexi Kaye Campbell as writer and Jamie Lloyd as director that none of these instances feel like a cheap pay off to lighten the mood – like everything about this play, the laughter is honest. Though don’t expect there to be a resolution, like a person’s real search for who they are the play doesn’t really have a definitive ending for any of the characters. Rather as we are left with 1958 Sylvia’s words of ‘It will be alright’ we know that all the characters have only just begun to feel the pride that the title suggests.