The Pride (Brighton)

With a simple, rather bleak, backdrop, we are introduced to this new tour of “The Pride”, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s West End hit first staged in 2008

Al Weaver & Harry Hadden-Paton
Al Weaver & Harry Hadden-Paton
© Marc Brenner

In a 1958 living room we meet couple Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton) and Sylvia (Naomi Sheldon), who are host to Oliver (Al Weaver). He quite clearly has a rapport with Philip, and we witness the awkward flirtations between them as Sylvia painfully watches on.

Directed by Jamie Lloyd, The Pride is beautifully performed, with many scenes bringing audience members to tears (at one point I hear audible sobbing from behind me).

When we meet the characters in 2013 Brighton, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before storyline-wise (in terms of witnessing the struggle to conform and the shame connected to one’s sexuality and desires), but the play still manages to bring a fresh interpretation to a common theme in society.

Alexi Kaye Campbell's play not only touches on 1950s oppression towards homosexuality, but is a tale of how honesty and pride in one's true self should prevail. The play flits from 1958 to modern day, juxtaposing the love triangle between the three characters in the former, with the current illustration of relationships, including Sylvia as the loyal best friend of Oliver as he goes through a journey of self discovery having struggled with a sex addiction, leading inevitably to his relationship breakdown with Philip.

Matthew Horne (Gavin from Gavin and Stacey) offers some comical light relief as the Nazi-uniformed rent boy for 2013’s Oliver, as the play takes on some very emotionally challenging themes. He reappears as other characters throughout the show, adding a slight celebrity panto feel to the edgier script elsewhere in the performance.

The underlying theme is one of human loneliness and the fight to become exactly who we should be in order to be happy. It’s a sure sign of a play’s high quality directing and script if a simple set design and few actors can pull off such a touching portrayal of human sadness, relationship breakdown and true love.

The reality we see before us on the stage, with the two different time frames, is that despite a more open attitude to homosexuality – and sexuality in general – the societal shame attached to some desires and carnal needs is never going to go away.

We leave the theatre thoroughly moved by the honest and realistic performances. Gay and straight audience members alike will revel in the emotional roller-coaster that is The Pride.  At the curtain call, Campbell's cast members hold up signs saying "To Russia With Love", reminding us that today’s attitudes still mirror those of the past.

The Pride runs at the Theatre Royal, Brighton until 18 January and at the Richmond Theatre from 27 January until 1 February.