Emotionally charged and curiously optimistic, The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell explores the dynamics of relationships fraught with repressed emotions and unspoken words.
The play constantly switches between two storylines – one set in 1958, where homosexuality is still very much criminalized, and the other in 2008, where progress has been made but certain challenges remain. These transitions are quite clearly marked out by changes in costumes (the 1950s style of dressing in particular is aesthetically convincing) as well as the relationships and dialogues between characters, thus alternating moments of dramatic intensity with more light-hearted scenes, without it being too jarring or confusing.
”a testament to the acting and directorial talents of this production’’
Besides dealing with a subject matter as complex as sexuality, the script also wonderfully captures the sense of isolation both in and out of relationships, the depressing weight of aimlessness, and the profound value of understanding and companionship.
It is not without its flaws: some lines are very close to sounding like a full-on whinge, and there is perhaps an overuse of conversation prompts (the default response to a statement or an unfinished line seems to be either ‘What?’ or ‘How do you mean?’). Nevertheless, the fact that the dialogue never once comes off as dull or awkward is a testament to the acting and directorial talents of this production.
”Ella Hiscocks, as Sylvia, is especially marvellous in her argument scene with Sharp-Paul’s Phillip’’
In the first scene, where Philip (Chris Sharp-Paul) and Oliver (Arnaud Lacey) meet, a subtle tension is masterfully developed through not so much the words exchanged, but in the interactions and mannerisms of each character. This underlying strain creates a slight suspense and consequently leads to the climatic outbursts that occur later on in the 1958 timeline.
Ella Hiscocks, as Sylvia, is especially marvellous in her argument scene with Sharp-Paul’s Phillip – her vocalization wins the empathy of the audience as she struggles but ultimately fails to articulate her internal anxieties. The significant confrontation between Philip and Oliver is another powerful, gripping scene, in which Sharp-Paul and Lacey deliver a formidable, authentic performance.
The best moments of this show, however, are arguably the more subdued scenes. The Man (David Mason), besides providing an amusing gag, also offers a tender moment with Oliver as they begin a charmingly clumsy conversation. In another scene near the end, we see Philip at his most vulnerable, fidgeting, uncomfortable, as he faces the cool indifference of the Doctor (also Mason) – he does not say much, but then again he does not have to.
The friendship of 2008’s Oliver and Sylvia further makes up some of the most poignant and uplifting moments of the play: their interaction never feels anything less than completely genuine, and the way they finish each other sentences, though doubtless platonic, is no less heart-warming for that. (Also, keep an ear out for the joke about dolphins!)
”The technical aspects of the play are absolutely spot on as well, for which Rohanna Brown, Ben Woodford, and Emily Dimino should be credited’’
Moreover, the use of in the round staging contributes to the immediacy of the audience’s experience; the tics and trembles are more apparent, the flare-ups and brutality more affecting. Although during certain points the audience will not be able to observe the face of the actors, the vocal and physical delivery of the cast more than compensates for that.
The technical aspects of the play are absolutely spot on as well, for which Rohanna Brown, Ben Woodford, and Emily Dimino should be credited. Smoke, music, and glowing lightbulbs contribute to a specific ambience that works very well; subsequent scene changes are slick and polished; the sound and light effects work in tandem, not just to heighten the intensity of climactic episodes, but also to establish efficient and naturalistic settings.
Director Laura Jayne Bateman and producer Aneesa Kaleem have created a bold, charming play that examines the human struggle for self-worth, and the workings of courageous, fallible relationships.
In the words of the play itself: it is a demonstration, a celebration, and a fashion show; it is a hopeful reminder that it will be all right, it will be all right, it will be all right.
8 – Excellent, highly enjoyable
Yee Heng Yeh
Image courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre
‘The Pride’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 19th of November. For more information and where to find tickets see here