The Pride of Sheffield
I love Alexi Kaye Campbell's play about life as gay men in the 1958 vs 2008 but confess this production had a slight disadvantage from the outset - the last version I saw was in New York with Stan-fav Ben Whishaw playing Oliver.
This production the Crucible's studio space is directed by Richard Wilson (who decided to look in on the performance with Merlin pal Colin Morgan) and has a slightly older cast than the New York version.
Initially a voice in my head screamed, 'it's not going to work as well' but it did and heightened that sense of time running out for the characters as Poly so correctly observed.
Daniel Evans takes on Oliver in this production with Jamie Sives playing Philip, Claire Price - Sylvia and Jay Simpson the miscellaneous extra parts but perhaps I should explain the story a little first.
The play is set in 1958 and 2008, swapping act by act between the two periods. In 1958 Philip is a children's writer who has commissioned Sylvia to illustrate his book. Sylvia invites him to dinner with her husband Philip and there is an immediate but subtle connection between the two.
In 2008, Philip has just left Oliver after the discovery of yet another infidelity and Sylvia is their best friend. Oliver is taking the split badly.
It is at times a deliciously funny play; the 2008 Nazi role-playing scene and Oliver's meeting with a lads-mag editor keen to show the publication is gay-friendly are worth the ticket price alone. But it is also a moving piece which at its heart explores loneliness and fear of being alone.
The Oliver in the 1950's has an 'epiphany' and is hopeful of a societal change in attitude. He is desperate to share this with someone, go on the journey together. Oliver in 2008 is enjoying the hard-fought freedom to the maximum but with the prospect of losing everything he holds dear, has to face up to some home-truths.
The actors switch seamlessly from character to character, era to era. Of course they are helped by having such a wonderful script to work with, indeed it is hard to imagine any actor putting a foot wrong with such material.
My only slight quibble, and as loathed as I am to admit it but I think it actually works better on a stage face on to the audience rather than on three sides like the Crucible's studio. The reason is that there is a lot of sub-text in the non-verbal communication which can be missed if the actor happens to have their back to you.
There is also one graphic scene where, if you are sat to one side of the stage, you get more than your fair share of the view.
But putting that to one side, I loved The Pride all over again and it was more than a match for the New York version. I'm giving it five stars.
Jamie Sives is the source of a couple of connections. First he was in Get Him to the Greek which starred Russell Brand who played Trinculo in Julie Taymor's The Tempest in which Mr W played Ariel. And Mr Sives was also in Last Chance Harvey which starred Emma Thompson who played Mr W's mum in Brideshead Revisted.