27 June 2022
THE PRIDE (Fortune Theatre) Review

This was a script-in-hand reading of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play (originally staged by Jamie Lloyd at the Royal Court Theatre in 2008 to critical acclaim and all manner of awards) that looks at gay relationships 50 years apart.  Campbell himself was in the audience, and I thought it would’ve been lovely to get him up on stage after the show to talk about the play, but alas…

At the core of the play are three relationships and three people.  In 1958, a Sylvia is married to a Philip and is working for an Oliver.  She knows Oliver is gay and suspects that her husband might be also, so she introduces the two (yet seems to be surprised by the outcome later).  In 2008, a Sylvia is best friends with an Oliver who is going through a painful break-up with a Philip.

I was desperately confused (as was my companion) as to whether these people were the same people 50 years later or different people with the same names.  Having read about other productions (sadly after the show), it seems that they are meant to be different couples, and other productions made it obvious by changing the cast’s costumes, demeanour, accents, etc.  Although jackets were being put on and taken off, both Oliver and Philip each appeared to be the same exact person at different points in time, which is where our confusion started.  Although this was a reading, I think I must lay the fault for this squarely at Aran Cherkez’s feet.  As the director, I think Cherkez should’ve found a way to make the distinction between the couples very clear to those unfamiliar with the play.

Omari Douglas as Oliver(s) did a fine job, but I thought more emotion should’ve been in order.  Except for one scene where both he and Sylvia break down crying, the angst of his character(s) was read off the page more so than portrayed.  Jordan Luke Gage as Philip(s) was delightful as the closeted 1958 version, but fairly ornamental as the 2008 version, which is a shame.  The night was absolutely stolen by Lauryn Redding as Sylvia(s) who gave a killer performance.  Funny enough, although she was the only one actually changing the costume as such (swapping between white and black blouses), she was also the only one to truly separate her Sylvias, so it was fairly clear even without the blouse swap that she was playing two different people.

Daniel Bailey as a call boy was a complete delight, brief though his part was.  His performance was full of non-verbals, which almost made it feel as though he wasn’t reading off page.  Michelle Tiwo and Josh-Susan Enright (as doctor and friend, respectively) helped streamline the plot, as these 3 [minor] parts were played by the same person in previous productions, and this one already had enough confusion as to who was who.

I can see how it’s an important play (and also how a lot of it is open to interpretation and discussion).  But it would’ve been good if Oliver(s) and Philip(s) here could be someone in whom I could get emotionally invested.  Although a large part of this may’ve been due to it being a reading, the script itself could’ve helped the actors more by having a bit of a back story and deeper exploration of the characters.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £1.

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