High praise for The Pride at Trafalgar Transformed
Jamie Lloyd's revival of Alexi Kaye Campbell's debut play opened last night (13 August 2013) at the Trafalgar Studios, starring Hayley Atwell, Mathew Horne, Harry Hadden-Paton and Al Weaver
... a play that is discreet, humane, non-doctrinaire and also funny about matters of sexual shame, anguish and deception in all our adult lives... The acting is absolutely first rate, allowing all of Campbell's subtlety and humour in showing these tortured lives... Hayley Atwell's mesmerising, beautiful Sylvia is an actress turned illustrator in the Rattiganesque sequences... Mathew Horne... contributed hilarious sketches of a fed-up, Nazi-style rent boy and a florid, vulgar magazine editor with his own "experience" of gay tragedy, as well as a chilling doctor in a scene of "curing" homosexuality that is authentically historic. Otherwise, the structure of the play is both original and faultless, Lloyd ghosting his characters past each other, with some stunning juxtapositions and echoes on Soutra Gilmour's huge tarnished mirror which is, suitably enough, both gloriously decorative and dangerously transparent.
... Alexi Kaye Campbell has crafted an elegant and thoughtful drama... Mathew Horne is the big draw – and moves appealingly between several roles... But the onus is on the others to sustain the connections between the Fifties and today. Al Weaver brings a lovely articulate sensitivity to both Olivers. In the hands of the excellent Harry Hadden-Paton both Philips are fragile, haunted and eloquent. And Hayley Atwell nicely evokes the contrast between the Fifties Sylvia, strained yet sympathetic, and her breezy modern counterpart. The tensions are more compelling in the Fifties scenes, and sometimes the writing feels sophisticated rather than complex. But at its best this is a potent play, and Lloyd's revival is skilful.
... Campbell's play is far more than propaganda: it's a work of art that juxtaposes scenes from the repressive 1950s with others from the more liberated, but still imperfect, present... Sylvia seems a more pivotal figure, thanks to Atwell's skill in forging a link between the wounded wife of the 1950s and the loyal friend of the present. Hadden-Paton also hints at a subliminal connection between the past and present Philips, who both conceal desire behind a mask of formal rectitude. If all this sounds a bit earnest, Mathew Horne provides comic relief as a rented provider of fantasy sex and as a wide-boy editor. That last character is a sharp reminder that Britain has undergone a sexual sea change – but it hasn't banished prurience or prejudice.
... Al Weaver hauntingly captures the aching desolation of the Fifties Oliver and his idealistic quest for a life rooted in honesty and love, while powerfully communicating, in the 2008 scenes, the ironically related loneliness of a trendy, troubled freelance journalist whose addiction to anonymous sex has caused his partner, Philip, to leave him. Mathew Horne is very funny in a number of comic cameos, including the wide-boy editor of a lad's mag who, tellingly, wants Oliver to play up to the straight readership's envy of the promiscuous gay life-style... Best of all is Hayley Atwell – a feisty, faithful but not supinely supportive friend in the modern scenes and absolutely piercing as the sensitive wife who has to wake up to the bleak barrenness of a marriage based on a lie.
... Kaye Campbell has a fine ear for period dialogue: in the 1950s scenes, this allows him to write lines that both glitter with surface brilliance and groan with abysses of repressed feeling. He also teases out some intriguing continuities between the two periods, not least in the part played by Sylvia (Hayley Atwell), Philip's wife in the 1950s and Oliver's best friend in the present. The result is a deeply resonant drama that's rich in ambiguities and unresolved issues... The Pride is also a rather good ghost story, which director Jamie Lloyd (responsible for its original staging) and his excellent cast – including a spirited Mathew Horne in three minor roles – invest with just the right amount of Gothic portentousness. It's a fine, funny and sensitive production that deserves to be widely seen.
The Pride continues at Trafalgar Studios 1 until 9 November 2013. Come on our hosted WhatsOnStage Outing on 18 September 2013 including a top-price ticket, a FREE poster and access to our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with cast including Hayley Atwell - all for £32.00.