Up and coming British playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell (MTC recently produced his Apologia) has written a wonderful, complex, funny, intelligent gay play. A work that innovatively plays with the dramatic form, that is clever in its writing and structure, and has already won a slew of awards. By the end of Act Two, it is easy to see why.
Containing two storylines, each set about 50 years apart (one storyline is set in the repressive 50s, while the other is in a contemporary setting, where anonymous sex is easy to find in a promiscuous world) Kaye Campbell has cleverly devised the structure so that the three principal characters in each time period share the same names and even travel simliar journeys, but with different outcomes.
In the 50s Phillip (Lyall Brooks) is married to Sylvia (Ngaire Dawn Fair), denying his closet sexuality, filled with guilt about his 'deviation', but who recognises the similar feelings in his wife's boss Oliver (Ben Guerens). This was an age where society had no room for same sex couples, and where a gay relationship was almost an impossibility.
Crossing to contemporary times, where sexual mores have drastically changed and the western world has very different values, Phillip is leaving Oliver, mainly due to Oliver's excessive addiction to casual sex with other men. Here Oliver struggles to find his way with the help of best friend Sylvia in the hope of finding love in this so-called free society.
The challenge that Kaye Campbell places on the actors is that they play their respective roles in both time periods, with scenes alternating in sometimes rapid succession. A fourth actor Ben Prendergast plays a variety of characters across the play.
It has always been a standard of Red Stitch to choose and produce work that accentuates the actor and the writing. This cast all perform marvelously, capturing the periods, the nuances, the humour and even the tragedy of these characters.
Credit must be given to director Gary Abrahams who has carefully guided his cast and sensitively staged the action. The production team have contributed to all this success by creating a mood with the costumes and design that captures effectively the different time periods, given the small space that these actors have to work in.
The Pride is a beautiful piece of work that shines brightly. As a first play, Kaye Campbell has created a remarkable piece of theatre. This is much more than a gay play, rather a glimpse into the lives of people struggling to accept who they really are. The Pride manages to acknowledge the victims of the past who paved the way for a freer world that so many take for granted today. A most satisfying piece of theatre with a bitter-sweet ending. Try not to miss it.
The PrideRed Stitch presents
by Alexi Kaye Campbell
Directed by Gary Abrahams
Venue: Red Stitch | Rear 2 Chapel Street, St. Kilda VIC
Dates: 25 July – 18 August 2012