To put it simply, The Pride is a work of art. It is a thought provoking, highly topical, heart-warming, heartbreaking and simultaneously witty look at prejudice, attitudes towards homosexuality, identity, sex and complicated relationships.
Having the chance to watch the play was an absolute thrill, with the driving force being the juxtaposition between the conservative, restrictive and shocking views of the 1950s and the far more liberal – though still flawed and imperfect – attitudes of modern society.
The play remains dynamic as the scenes are constantly changing between the two eras. The 1950s section introduces us to Sylvia and Philip – a ‘happily’ married couple; Phillip is an estate agent whilst Sylvia works as an illustrator. Her latest client is children’s writer, Oliver and one evening he is invited over to discuss Sylvia’s illustrations. He meets Philip and though the storyline is clear in which direction it will take, with Philip and Oliver’s chemistry almost immediately evident – it does not deter from how powerful The Pride is.
In comparison, the modern day story is that Oliver and Philip are an ex-couple who have recently parted due to Oliver having an addiction to sex and Philip no longer willing to put up with it. In this scenario, Sylvia is Oliver’s best friend. Throughout the play, the two relationships are examined in the context of the time period and the attitudes of those around them.
Audible gasps, laughs and groans all came from the audience on the night I went to see the talented cast perform. There are moments of joy, moments of tension, moments where you want to turn your head and look away – but those are the moments that are the most powerful and speak the loudest.
Hayley Atwell does a fantastic job of being the wife and the best friend, supportive in both roles and forming the bind between the two male characters. It’s also impressive that such a big story and difficult subject can be staged so easily with limited space; each of the scene changes are seamless but when the scenarios are intended to overlap, it creates an eerie atmosphere.
At the end of the performance, the cast held up signs which read: ‘To Russia, With Love’ – a reminder that despite the changes in attitudes and acceptance, it is not universal and there is still a long, long way to go.