The Pride

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Using Alexi Kaye Campbell’s debut play to mark their own debut production, new theatre company Green Carnation present The Pride, an affecting, powerful and poignant piece of theatre.

Focusing on two separate Britain’s, that of the repressive 1950’s and the supposedly liberal 2008. Three central actors, (Gareth George, Simon Hallman and Joanna Leese) play the identically named but hugely different characters of each era with a forth actor (Alex Thompson) playing a trio of strong supporting roles.

Designer Frankie Gerrard centres the action during both eras within a sitting room setting, a slight shift of furniture and a roll of the clouds via simple hanging drapes indicating the changing days.

We firstly meet 1950’s Phillip (Gareth George) an unfulfilled, middle-class, married estate agent who gets introduced by wife Sylvia (Joanna Leese) to well-travelled, articulate yet lonely Oliver (Simon Hallman) for whom she is illustrating his most recent children’s novel. An immediate attraction is felt between the two men as secrets are kept and truths lie unspoken, Phillip’s true self being denied and suppressed with devastating consequences.

In 2008 Oliver is so free sexually it is damaging the one person he truly loves resulting in him losing partner Phillip due to his need for risqué sex with strangers and posing the question is 2008 Oliver just as detached from his true-self as 1950’s Phillip?

Sylvia shifts from 1950’s actress turned illustrator whose mental health problems are hinted at to forthright friend whom both Oliver and Phillip both turn to, an ally and advocate in both era’s.

Simon Hallman excels as Oliver, while rigid and desperately lonely in the 1950’s he transforms into a sexually liberated yet painfully shambolic character come 2008. Hallman adds emotional depth to the outrageously promiscuous Oliver and a heart-felt desperation to 1950’s Oliver who yearns to feel love.

Gareth George’s 1950’s Phillip convincingly bubbles with violent frustration while his 2008 self is calm and composed, at complete contrast to hedonistic partner Oliver.

Joanna Leese impresses as Sylvia giving an emotional and committed performance, the scene where she gently confronts her husbands lover heartbreaking in its honesty. Elsewhere Alex Thompson injects some great comic relief in his three varying roles of rent boy, wide-boy magazine editor and 1950’s aversion therapist, his superb comedic acting changing the tone of an early scene entirely.

Director Dan Jarvis along with co-director Dan Ellis have succeeded in bringing this thought-provoking revival bang up to date. As Campbell’s script cleverly weaves history together the characters although hugely different feel on many levels connected as the heartbreaking fears of loneliness resonate in both era’s. There are moments when the pacing could improve slightly with Act I feeling much longer than Act II but this is a minor quibble.

Shifts in attitudes from the 1950’s to 2008 while abundantly clear cannot remove the fear of being unloved as this insightful drama explores not just what it is to truly be yourself but that cost at which for many this comes.

With beautifully poignant writing and impressive performances The Pride examines and explores without sugarcoating.

Important, rewarding and impressive theatre.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 20th October more information can be found here.

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