The Royal Court Theatre presents
By Alexi Kaye Campbell
21 November - 20 December 2008
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Tickets: £15. Mondays £10.
“Somewhere inside me a kind of betrayal. Of what? Of whom? I don’t know. But the sense, the overwhelming sense, of betrayal.”
The 1958 Philip is in love with Oliver, but married to Sylvia.
The 2008 Oliver is addicted to sex with strangers.
Sylvia loves them both.
The Pride examines changing attitudes to sexuality over a period of 50 years, looking at intimacy, identity and the courage it takes to be who you really are.
Age guidance 16+
Contains scenes of a sexual nature.
Please note that on Monday 15th December there will be NO DAY SEATS available for that evening’s performance of The Pride.
A waiting list for RETURNS will begin one hour before each performance begins though patrons are welcome to queue earlier to secure their place on the waiting list.
Select a Date
Dates in November
|Fri 21 Nov 2008||12:00am||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£15|
Sold out Performances
£15. Mondays all seats £10 Concessions £5 off the top two prices.(avail. in advance for all perfs until 29 Nov inc. and all matinees. For all other perfs, avail. on a standby basis). Schools and HE Groups 8+ £7.50 (avail. Tue-Fri and mats) All discounts are subject to availability and ID maybe required. To book concessions please call the box office on 020 7565 5000.
4 stars The Daily Telegraph – Charles Spencer
The Pride is a touching and structurally ingenious examination of changing attitudes in Britain towards homosexuality.
The play opens in 1958, as a married couple in their mid-thirties, Philip and Sylvia, entertain Oliver in their Pimlico flat. Oliver is a children’s author and Sylvia has just illustrated his latest book. Philip is an estate agent who doesn’t care for his job – or indeed much else about his life.
The writing beautifully captures the tone and style of a Fifties play – we might be watching a drawing room drama by Rattigan – and the actors brilliantly capture what now seem the ludicrously posh accents of the period, so that when someone is described as an offal bore, it doesn’t mean a person who endlessly bangs on about liver and kidneys.
But the action then suddenly leaps forward to 2008. Oliver is now in his Calvin Klein underpants and playing sex games with a call-boy dressed as a Nazi. Then his former boyfriend Philip arrives and we learn that though they loved each other they have broken up because Oliver is addicted to casual sex with strangers and Philip values monogamy.
And so the play proceeds, zipping backwards and forwards across half a century, to show how the same characters might have lived and thought and loved in two different periods.
In the Fifties scenes we watch as Oliver and Philip are clearly deeply attracted to each other, but Philip lacks the courage to honestly acknowledge his homosexuality at a time when gay sex was still a crime.
More daringly the dramatist seems to suggest that matters are far from hunky-dory now. In the Fifties, men struggled for the right to love one another honestly. Now, the play argues, many gay men seemed to be trapped in an endless obsessive cycle of casual sex and empty style. What has happened to the possibility of fulfilled and faithful love?
As well as The Pride’s palpable humanity, there is potent stage poetry in its juxtaposition of two different periods that put me in mind of Eliot’s famous lines in Four Quartets about time present and time past both being present in time future.
And Jamie Lloyd’s sensitive production, evocatively designed by Soutra Gilmour, is beautifully acted. J.J Feild brilliantly captures the corrosive self-loathing of Philip, which leads him to aversion therapy, Bertie Carvel powerfully captures the painful contrast between love and lust as Oliver, and Lindsey Marshal is heart-catchingly brave, raw and isolated as the lonely wife.
This is a searching, moving, thoroughly grown-up play, and a remarkable debut from a writer from whom I am impatient to hear more. 4 stars The Times – Benedict Nightingale
Alexi Kaye Campbell’s impressive debut gives us three actors embodying three lives as they might have been lived in two very different periods: grey, repressive 1958 and a 2008 that brings its own pressures and difficulties.
This interweaving of eras and comparison of sex lives isn’t original. Back in 1979 Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine switched from Victorian to modern times to make some trenchant points about the complexities of gender. But Campbell’s focus is more on changing attitudes to homosexuality. Philip One is a married man who can’t admit his feelings and, after an affair with Oliver One, undergoes aversion therapy likely to be as ineffective as it is humiliating. Philip Two is unmarried, as is the far happier woman who was his wife in the earlier incarnation. He sets up house with Oliver Two, but can’t stand his lover’s promiscuity.
The play is too wordy and sometimes the words sound more artificial than period angst demands, but it makes its point, which is that anything is better than hypocrisy, evasion, denial and lies. I didn’t count the number of times honesty is mentioned, but on each of many occasions it has an impact. J.J. Feild’s prim but dishonest Philip One more or less destroys three people: Bertie Carvel’s gentle, rather weak Oliver One, whom he ends up attacking and then raping; Lyndsey Marshal as a wife who eventually twigs the reasons for her deep unease; and, not least, himself.
One of the play’s strengths is to do justice to the wife’s sense of loss, another to admit that sexual liberation doesn’t mean the end of tension and trouble. However, that admission goes only so far. I can’t reveal the ending, which occurs on Gay Pride Day and, along with Campbell’s invocations of truth and self-respect, gives the play its title. But it’s a mite sentimental: 1958 may have been hell; 2008 is still pretty purgatorial.
Variety – David Benedict
“I may have said many things, Oliver, but unfortunately I probably didn’t mean them.” The overwhelming irony of this remark is that it’s a lie. The issue of men’s honesty, or rather their lack of it, lies at the very considerable heart of “The Pride,” Alexi Kaye Campbell’s arresting double portrait of the costs of self-deception. In the work of any playwright, such engrossing handling of emotional inarticulacy would be impressive. In a debut, it’s truly remarkable.
Campbell’s mature ability to grip audiences with subtly truthful disclosure is matched by his skill at construction. “The Pride” interleaves two triangular relationships, one in the 1950s, one in the present, each with the same characters played by the same actors. Although very different in tone and intent, the effect is not unlike Todd Haynes’ period revamp “Far From Heaven,” but with considerably more restraint and power.
Well-heeled, confident ’50s Philip (J.J. Feild) is married to Sylvia (Lyndsey Marshal), who is illustrating a children’s book by Oliver (Bertie Carvel). In Jamie Lloyd’s meticulously directed opening scene — all brittle chat in cut-glass accents — the witty banter of their initial meeting is gradually undercut by unspoken tension that isn’t exactly dissipated by Philip saying, “As long as I don’t discover you’ve been having a torrid affair behind my back, we should get on just fine.”
In fact, as becomes clear in the electrifying gaze between the two men, the unspoken tension in the room isn’t heterosexual.
The action then jump-cuts to the present, where Philip and Oliver — still in their mid-30s — now live together. Their relationship, however, is seriously jeopardized by Oliver’s addiction to casual sex, a conundrum more worrying to their friend Sylvia than Oliver himself.
Although, at first, the play’s principal relationships appear to be between the men, Campbell is cunningly misleading the audience. Sylvia grows in awareness and power. She is the most generous, least self-deceiving character, and in both eras, she drives the men toward truth.
The two eras — simply and evocatively conjured by designer Soutra Gilmour with the minimum of telling props against a giant, tarnished mirror — cast light upon each other. The societal repression of the ’50s is neatly paralleled with the self-repression of gay men in the 2000s.
The danger in this kind of double structure is that once audiences are clued into it, tension evaporates because the paralleling tends to become a foregone conclusion. Campbell’s masterstroke is to maintain suspense by sustaining the ideas but switching the power dynamics. Thus characters repeat in the two periods but move in different and unexpected directions.
Instead of balancing each other out, the eras rub against each other to create real dramatic friction. A haunting scene with Philip and an aversion therapist in the ’50s is contrasted in 2008 by one with Oliver meeting a hilariously know-it-all, straight magazine editor intent on commissioning a piece on “the whole gay thing.”
Campbell’s background as an actor serves him extremely well in his adroit handling of subtext, which the immaculate cast feasts upon. But it’s the rigorous unsentimentality of Lloyd’s direction that’s most impressive. His actors are never allowed to indulge themselves through overt displays of the underlying pain and longing that courses through the play, instead leaving audiences to discover for themselves what lies beneath the surface.
Nowhere is this more heartbreaking than in the climactic scene in which ’50s Sylvia confronts Oliver with his betrayal. In one of the year’s finest performances, Marshal reins in her anger and instead shows compassion. The ambition of that scene alone marks the arrival of a serious new voice in theater and the debut of the year.
International Herald Tribune – Matt Wolf
Alexi Kaye Campbell’s “The Pride” marks the debut of a fledgling writer whose voice on this evidence is already astonishingly fully formed.
What’s more, Campbell’s cunning structure allows him to anatomize gay life in Britain from either side of what one might call “The Boys In the Band” divide: ca. 1958, where the characters sound posh and bury passions that run bruisingly deep, and 2008, an inevitably more free-wheeling age where titillation comes cheap (or, in one amusing scene early on, at a definite price) but the terrors surrounding intimacy nonetheless remain.
Though a half-century apart, both scenarios involve three people with the same names: two men, Oliver and Philip, and a woman, Sylvia, who, in Lyndsey Marshal’s transfixing performance, may be the most movingly realized character of all. The 1958 Oliver is played hauntingly by Bertie Carvel with the saddest imaginable smile, as befits a writer who talks of the “unexplored” life and goes on to have a four-month relationship with a married real estate salesman, Philip (JJ Feild), whose sexual proclivities lead him to the sort of aversion therapy one would like to think these days is old news but isn’t. That story, with its vowel sounds by way of Terence Rattigan, is intercut with the contemporary tale of on again/off again boyfriends: a different, more promiscuous Oliver and an infinitely more self-knowing Philip.
Sylvia this time is a Shakespearean actress who in her down time lends a gallant shoulder on which the hapless Oliver can vent his despair. The glitch comes when Sylvia embarks upon a promising new relationship of her own with an unseen Italian, which has the effect of turning Oliver’s neediness into a genuine nuisance.
Campbell, like Letts, began as an actor and knows intuitively the sorts of theatrical juices that get performers going. He’s good at the ways in which people talk around topics, a habit that the 1958 Sylvia blasts to pieces in a second-act face-off that gives off real heat.
But he also writes superb, stand-alone set pieces, the best of which finds Tim Steed, easily inhabiting three entirely different roles during the play, as a blokish magazine editor very much of the here and now who is keen to make clear his “personal connection to the gay thing.”
The director, Jamie Lloyd, completes a 2008 hat trick, following an earlier Pinter double bill and then “Piaf” with another smart, spry production whose backdrop of a tarnished mirror communicates the appropriate distressed chic. (Soutra Gilmour once again is Lloyd’s expert designer.) “All I can do is whisper from a distance,” Sylvia remarks in a farewell that acts as both warning and benediction.
“The Pride”, meanwhile, delivers human fallibility and confusion up close; everyone connected with this show ought to be very proud.