Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Pride at Trafalgar Studios, Love and a Casual Tom Daley Reference

Two weeks ago marked a first for me. I went to the theatre alone. Not a huge event some might say and indeed I've never been one of those people who are uncomfortable in my own company. If anything I quite enjoy sitting in a cafe alone with a book or wandering quietly around an art exhibition. However, the theatre, something I love to engage with and debate and which warrants necessary social interaction in the interval where a glass of wine and a cigarette - for the dirty smokers still resolutely among us- is part of the enjoyment, I would always prefer a companion.

However, there was just no getting round this one. The Pride at the Trafalgar Studios was coming to the end of its extended run and I could find no friends able to come with me in the last four days. I'd wanted to see it since it opened, even telling my housemate who promptly took her boyfriend and raved about it. So I stomped there alone on a Wednesday night,  ticket-less and hoping that I was right and a last minute cheap ticket would be available and would warrant my 40 minute journey from work. (Since then I have found out that there is a UK tour starting January 14th - details at the bottom)

I was incredibly lucky, not only was there one £10 ticket left - in a box, restricted vision - but once I entered the theatre I was promptly moved to the second row where some seats were spare.

Written by Alexi Kaye Campbell and directed by Jamie Lloyd, the basic premise of the play is two parallel love-stories, two love-triangles if you will, one now and one in 1958. The play explores the changing attitudes to homosexuality and how people love. It uses the same characters as if they had existed now and before and how their lives differed.

From the beginning, the quality of acting was clearly quite extraordinary. That was one of the major gratitudes I took from being able to see this play. From Harry Hadden-Patton's portrayal of the repressed, shamed, married Philip in 1958 and his more relaxed and hurt counterpart is effortless.  With incredible projection, even in his 1958 rages at the more self-accepting Oliver, he loses not one word.

Matt Horne, loved by many on the small screen in Gavin & Stacey, Bad Education and more showed real adaptability in three small roles as a gay escort, lad magazine editor and a doctor trying to "cure homosexuals". He manages to exhibit wonderful comic timing alongside real emotional moments in a performance which made me want to see much more of him in the theatre.

Al Weaver depicts both versions of his character with great emotional range. Oliver's weaknesses including promiscuity and sex addiction and his temper tantrums which seemed to sprout from self-hatred could be a little tiresome if Weaver did not so successfully weave them with the fragility and idealism of his earlier counterpart. His character, of them all, is so well-merged and recognisable in both it's forms as a reaction to the time. Due largely to Weaver's great talent.

Finally, heavenly Hayley Atwell. Already a favourite of mine in such roles as TVs Upstairs Downstairs and films like The Duchess and Brideshead revisited, she comes alive in the theatre. In the 50s she is Sylvia, the vivacious yet disregarded wife of the unhappy Philip, her sadness, awareness, brave spirit and desire to be loved is heart-breaking to see. Her modern doppelganger is as vivacious and witty as she, but with an earthiness that is just so attractive. In both modern and old tales, she is relied upon by these men but never the first priority. In the second it seems she has found love. Though we never meet him. He stage presence throughout brings a light to the production as she personifies the gilded survivor, adapting and adapting to extract the most from life. Always caring about others. A beautiful actress - I love her.

One of the last scenes in the play involves the modern versions of the separated Philip and Oliver alone on a picnic blanket trying to work out their differences,in the midst of Gay Pride as the crowds parade around them. Whilst in the fifties final scene we see a meeting between Sylvia and Oliver as she reveals she is leaving Philip as she wants to be loved and it is just so sad.

With the recent backward movements of Putin's Russia, the play is very relevant. In fact we are pointed towards this at the end as the cast bring on placards reading "To Russia, With Love." Indeed it certainly  illustrates the immense changes that have occurred in the last 50 years.

And what this play is really about is love. About being allowed to love honestly. How rare love is and how treasured it should be and how it has its difficulties, no matter the sex, age, religion, nationality. The ability to love and be loved is what makes us human and whoever we should choose to fall for matters little as the process itself is both elating and difficult and frightening. Yet is a gift, we alone have. Why make it more difficult by judging whom people fall for. It is a minefield for us all.

In the two weeks since I saw this play, the country and the world has reacted outwardly with mostly positive delight to the revelations by teenager diver, Tom Daley that he is dating a man. In his YouTube confession, one of the points he made was that "it shouldn't really matter" and he's right. It was a brave action because of the way he chose to do it, not because of who he chose to date. Love is about the person after-all. The reaction to this event has proved that our country at least has generally become more accepting of that which is not considered "normal".

However, the recent documentary, Out There presented by Stephen Fry, which looked at what it's like to be gay in various places around the world, which range from a non-acceptance of homosexuality to complete abhorrence, it is obvious, we still have a long way to come. We are all responsible for that. We are all responsible for fighting for love.

So have Pride in love, I say to all. None of the rest of it matters.

The Pride was at the Trafalgar Studios until November 23rd  
A UK tour begins January 14th - 1st February visiting Brighton, Manchester and Richmond with Naomi Sheldon taking Hayley Atwell's role as Sylvia. All other actors remain in the same roles.

Images (c) The Trafalgar Studios and Marc Brenner

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