Alexi Kaye Campbell
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
If Terence Rattigan had met Mark Ravenhill somewhere near Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine the intended result might have resembled The Pride, at least in stylistic terms.
Surprisingly, actor turned playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell and his director Jamie Lloyd have failed to capitalise on an interesting underlying idea in a static two hours that have more of the feel of a pair of short stories than a radical Royal Court Upstairs play.
At the start, we are introduced to author and journalist Oliver, an open homosexual with submissive tendencies, Philip a closeted husband and his wife Sylvia who is Oliver's illustrator. These are characters straight out of a well-made 1950s drawing room comedy but they soon give way to another genre.
The burgeoning shame of illegal homosexual love is juxtaposed with its equivalent 50 years on when anything goes but despite freedom, no one is any happier than their spiritual ancestors.
In both eras, the honest Oliver (Bertie Carvel) suffers as he loses his love, once to contemporary prejudice and then to his own congenital infidelity.
J.J.Feild's Philip is torn between his inclinations and his genuine love for his wife Sylvia (Lyndsey Marshal). She in turn suffers as her menfolk cannot be happy and her need for children recedes into the distance.
Kaye Campbell's writing shows the problems that homosexuals suffer in both periods and is at its best in a short scene when 1950s Philip checks into a clinic for aversion therapy as a cure for his "illness". There, he comes up against a quack, dryly introduced by Tim Steed, who also amuses as a Nazi rentboy.
An evening with too little drama closes with no real resolution in either period. The Pride offers insights into three tormented lives and shows flashes of humour and could use more.
For too much of its duration, this play seems to have been written to satisfy an authorial need rather than act as a fully-realised drama. This is to take nothing away from any of the four actors, all of whom give the evening their all, the leading three all bringing real sympathy for the damaged souls that they portray.
Playing until 20th December
Reviewer: Philip Fisher