The Pride***** (Trafalgar Studios, 12 September 2013)

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Theatre

photo-96Having loved Alexi Kaye Campbell’s most recent play, “Bracken Moor”, I welcomed the opportunity to see a revival of his first, which won three major awards when premiered at the Royal Court in 2008. I was not disappointed. If “Bracken Moor” paid homage to JB Priestley, half of this play could well have been written by Terrence Rattigan, had he been allowed the freedom to write so frankly. The half in question is set in the 1950s and depicts a love triangle between Sylvia (Hayley Atwell), her husband Philip (Harry Hadden-Patton) and Oliver (Al Weaver), a writer with whom he begins a tortuous affair. “The Deep Blue Sea” with a twist that Rattigan would surely have relished, but there is another half to this play. In alternating scenes, we leap forward by more than half a century and see another Philip ending a long relationship with another Oliver because of the latter’s uncontrollable promiscuity, whilst Sylvia is Oliver’s friend and confidante. Different characters, similar dilemmas, different times and the only link only between the eras is a hinted mystical one. But this bold dramatic structure opens the door for the writer to explore how many things in society have changed, whilst many others have not. It is a structure that would only be attempted by a playwright with supreme confidence and one who has a natural instinct for extending the boundaries of theatre. Whilst making the wider social resonances clear, the play never loses sight of the fact that these are deeply personal and sometimes painful human stories. The three actors are all superb, as is Mathew Horne who plays three minor roles and adds some comic touches. The stage design (dominated by a huge painted mirror) and the lighting are particularly striking, allowing the director, Jamie Lloyd, to accentuate the mystical feel. As the actors take their bows, they carry placards reading “To Russia With Love”, adding volume to the already loud applause. 50 years from now maybe even Russia will have learned the lessons that this great play teaches us.

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