Alexi Kaye Campbell's play The Pride is a rare beast in that it's only five-years-old and I have already seen three different productions. During the same period of theatre-going I have seen Hamlet at least six times but I can't say I have seen any other play written so recently more than twice.
So there must be something in it that draws directors, actors and audiences to it; for me it the combination of clever, poignant and funny. It is also very much an actors play. There are four in the cast playing two characters each in two different time periods (one actor plays three characters).
In 1958, Sylvia (Hayley Atwell) is married to Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton) and working with Oliver (Al Weaver) who is a children's book author. When Philip and Oliver first meet there is the hint of a connection, a hint of emotional recognition, of longing or escape. It's subtle. Homosexuality is illegal, an affliction you can be treated for with the most repugnant therapy of forced association. There is no coming out of the closet.
Sylvia is perceptive, maybe even complicit in bringing the two together, recognising something unfulfilled in her husband but repressed feelings and an un-accepting society mean the relationship between the two men doesn't go well.
Jamie Lloyd directs, returning to the play having directed the original production at the Royal Court and his approach seems more subtle than the previous two versions I've seen. Weaver's 2008 Oliver is a little less camp and doesn't quite hold the same charm as previous Olivers but then Philip is quite straight-laced so it works. His performance may, of course, evolve as he relaxes into the part - this was the first preview.
Hayley Atwell's Sylvia too is more subtle but she nails the crucial 'pen' scene when her own repressed feelings of hurt bubble up. Looseness wasn't a problem for Mathew Horne taking up the trio of parts: A rent boy, a lads mag editor and a doctor. He seemed to be having the time of his life even grabbing his 'boy' baseball hat to wear over his doctors costume at the second curtain call.
This Pride didn't quite tug on the heart strings as much as previous productions but it hit the market with the witty and humour in the script. For me the themes of individual freedom and fulfillment really came through which I haven't noticed in the play so much before. I sense this is only going to get better and better and definitely gets the thumbs up from this Pride aficionado.
Previous The Pride productions I've seen:
The Pride, New York with Ben Whishaw (Oliver), Hugh Dancy (Philip), Andrea Riseborough (Sylvia) and Adam James (Rent boy/editor/doctor) February 2010
The Pride, Sheffield with Daniel Evans (Oliver), Jamie Sives (Philip), Claire Price (Sylvia) and Jay Simpson.
I'm only one actor short of a full set for this one: Hayley Atwell played Mr W's sister in Brideshead Revisited and led him astray in the short film Love Hate. Harry Hadden-Paton was in Richard II and Al Weaver was both Mr W's Hamlet understudy, playing the part for three performances a week and the gravedigger's assistant and the Player Queen the rest of the time.
If anyone knows of a direct connection between Mr W and Mathew Horne let me know then I'd have the entire cast.
*UPDATE* Carol (see comments) has found a direct link, Mathew Horne was also in a couple of episodes of Nathan Barley in which Mr W played Pingu. So there it is, the complete set. Hurray.