The Pride

“What is the point of this stupid, painful life if not to be honest? If not to stand up for what you are in the core of your being?”

Image by Marc Brenner

Image by Marc Brenner

Alexi Kaye-Campbell’s debut play The Pride presents us with a thought provoking and powerful piece of theatre which questions society’s attitude to homosexuality. Set in both 2008 (when the play was first wrote) and in 1958 the action switches smoothly focusing on the three main characters Oliver (Al Weaver) Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton) and Sylvia (Naomi Sheldon). In the 50s illustrator Sylvia is married to property agent Philip who is struggling with his feelings for the new man in both their lives, Sylvia’s boss the quietly camp Oliver. Fast forward to present day and another triangle awaits – the names stay the same but this time Oliver and Philip are in an on-off relationship and Sylvia is Oliver’s straight talking fag hag.

It may sound confusing on paper but the two stories cross over with ease as the audience are transported into their lives and the obstacles they face.

The Pride is director Jamie Lloyd’s third production for his hit Trafalgar Transformed season in the West End, and the multi award-winning play runs at Manchester’s Opera House until 24th January as part of a three-week tour.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not the ‘Horne Show’ though and despite him providing the star element the other 3 protagonists shine just as bright.

Image by Marc Brenner

Image by Marc Brenner

For a lot of people it might be the billing of Gavin & Stacey’s Mathew Horne that draws them to by a ticket but don’t expect him to be onstage throughout. Horne performs a series of cameos weaving in and out of the action as a Nazi-dressing kinky rent boy, a wide boy magazine editor and a po-faced psychiatrist employed to ‘cure’ homosexual urges. Horne dominates the laughter providing a much-needed light relief, bagging some of the best dialogue in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not the ‘Horne Show’ though and despite him providing the star element the other 3 protagonists shine just as bright.

Al Weaver puts in an incredible performance as the needy Oliver wanting to find a man to share his love with and desperately trying to convince Philip to give their relationship a chance. Weaver executes the huge chunks of dialogue with natural ease making the audience laugh at his campness and empathise at his intense vulnerability.

Harry Hadden-Paton as Philip gives us a glimpse of the tortured soul of a man trapped in a loveless marriage scared to admit his sexuality. And Naomi Sheldon is the glue that holds it all together as the pivotal Sylvia stepping up to the challenge of quickly bouncing backwards and forwards from frustrated heartbroken wife to carefree companion as the scenes switch.

At times this is not the most comfortable play to watch as you witness the prejudices faced by gay men and women – it’s hard to believe episodes like this went on just over 60 years ago. There’s also an unexpected and rather shocking scene awaiting the audience before the interval, which had most of the audience gasp out loud.

Alexi Kaye-Campbell has given us a modern day classic with The Pride full of some important messages and highlighting that we still have a long way to go in creating a world where homosexuality is completely accepted. 
Watch out for the curtain call as the actors show their own ‘Pride’ in making a political statement brandishing banners adorned with ‘To Russia With Love’ in a two finger salute to Putin’s anti-gays laws.

Runs at the Opera House, Manchester till Saturday 24th January.
Age guidance 16+ (due to scenes of a sexual nature)



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