It is a decade since this play by Alexi Kaye Campbell was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre and won a Laurence Olivier Award. The Green Carnation Company have now brought the play to the North in its debut production at the Hope Mill Theatre.
The young team at Green Carnation show their enthusiasm for this play in their overall approach to the production.
The play is set in two different time periods (1958 and 2008) using the same characters, Oliver, Philip and Sylvia. This essentially allows us to explore the difference in opinions and how our acceptance of homosexuality has evolved over this time. We must remember that until 1967 homosexuality was outlawed in England and it was 1980 before it was decriminalised in Scotland.
Philip sells properties and is unhappy in his job. His wife Sylvia works for Oliver who is an author. We find out that Sylvia was an actress but had to give it up due to her being ‘fragile’. We see the characters depicted as being restrained with their emotions, Sylvia feels that Philip has never been able to be himself, but she does not know why.
Oliver and Philip have been in a relationship together for a year and a half but Oliver’s obsession with casual sex has pushed Philip to the limit and he leaves. Sylvia is a friend to them both, but Oliver is very demanding.
Moving between the two time periods during the play makes an interesting challenge for the actors as they are essentially playing the same characters, but their performance must reflect the cultural changes. This worked in part as the acting was superb and Simon Hallman (Oliver) showed us his ability to be funny but also to be touchingly vulnerable struggling for acceptance and love. The thing I felt that didn’t quite work was the moving of the set between scenes. I can understand that this helped the audience to separate the two time periods, but it was at times clumsy, with the settee tearing the lino part way through the play and the moving of the curtains taking time.
The scene with the Nazi soldier was especially funny with Alex Thompson giving us some gems to laugh at and I think the audience appreciated the light-heartedness to balance out the tension and heartache of Oliver after his separation from Philip.
Later in the play the frustrations of Philip and Oliver are played out with alarming scenes of violence, but this is portrayed in a way that shows their feelings of shame with a reluctance to face true feelings. All three characters have periods of loneliness, just wanting to be themselves so they can be happy.
Dan Jarvis and Dan Ellis took on a difficult task and under their careful stewardship they have successfully been able to convey the struggles for acceptance faced by gay men both yesterday and today.
A refreshingly frank and very human play – a delight! The play runs from 16th – 20th October 2018 at the Hope Mill Theatre. For details https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/the-pride/
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 16th October 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★★