Written by Charlotte Barron and Emma Taylor
Pictures by Lucie Andrau
Thursday the 1st of December was the opening night of SUDS’ performance of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride in the debating Chamber of Falmer House, directed by Maddie Holderness and starring Alex Holliday; Charlie Macphearson; Daisy Eccles and Joshua Tate. The play explored a number of struggles associated with identity, sexuality and intimacy.
The play’s setting alternates between 1958 and 2008, contrasting these eras. The play focuses on three main characters, Oliver (played by Alex Holliday), Phillip (played by Charlie Macphearson) and Sylvia (played by Daisy Eccles), in 1958, Philip is married to Sylvia but in love with her work associate, Oliver. In 2008, Oliver and Philip are struggling through a tumultuous relationship due to Oliver’s addiction to sex with strangers. Their close friend, Sylvia (who is happily in love with Mario), guides them through their troubles. In both time period we see the struggles of Oliver, Philip and Sylvia as they attempt to figure out and come to terms with their identities.
The play opens in 1958, with a minimally dressed set; just a table, a sofa and a chair. The time is signified predominantly by the costume – Philip is dressed in a dinner suit, Oliver in a suit jacket and Sylvia in a 1950s-style floral dress. The small, intimate setting made the audience feel as though they were sitting in the living room with the characters in a kind of voyeuristic way.
The opening scene has an eerie end as a man dressed in a Nazi costume (played by Joshua Tate) marches on to stage barely acknowledged by the other characters, the audience speculate as to whether he is really there or is a supernatural presence. It becomes apparent that the entrance of this character marks a time transition to 2008 when an intense scene begins wherein Oliver is engaging in a disturbing role play. The uneasy atmosphere is soon cut with comic relief when the ‘Nazi’ comes out of character revealing himself as an annoyed sex worker. The following alternating time transitions show us the progression of these young adults’ lives, their feelings and affairs.
In the first act, the scenes transitioned very smoothly with the set remaining unchanged, in the second act, the transitions were less smooth as set changes, rather than actors’ entrances, were used to differentiate time. The play reached its climax in the scene preceding the interval wherein 1958 Philip’s sexual insecurity and frustration manifests in an unforgivable way as he rapes Oliver in a fit of repressed rage.
It becomes apparent that the very different climates which surround the two groups are responsible for their behaviour which makes us contemplate about how our identities are shaped by our surrounding cultures. Throughout the play there were a number of very believable and gripping arguments which showcased the actors’ talents and their on-stage chemistry. The cast of four actors was intimate enough that the audience were able to engage closely with each of the actors
The use of sound effects was sparse but effective, including the scene which begins with Oliver watching television. The very recognisable voice of Nigel Farage is heard as he flips between the channels. Another intriguing use of sound occurred as soft, melancholy music played while Sylvia read her leaving letter.
The play stressed a variety of issues, particularly sexuality, which manifested itself in the 1958 Philip’s closeted and suppressed sexuality and 2008 Oliver’s sex addiction. The eras were compared impressively with 2008 Philip being openly homosexual in comparison to his homophobic and self-hating 1958 self. Although the situation for Oliver and Philip was a lot more liberated in 2008 the play effectively highlighted that the struggle for gay rights is not over by mentioning important contemporary events like gay marriage and the close-minded controversy surrounding it.