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Review: The Pride, Trafalgar Studios

12/08/2013 17:52 BST | Updated 11/10/2013 10:12 BST

The Pride is the third production in the Trafalgar Transformed four-play run at Trafalgar Studios in London.

The Pride is the story of the same three lost souls - Philip, Oliver and Sylvia - who are involved in a complex love triangle played out in two different time periods - 1950s and present-day London.

In both time periods Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton) and Oliver (Al Weaver) are gay. And in both periods Sylvia (Hayley Atwell) is the woman who is inextricably emotionally connected to them.

In the current day, Philip and Oliver are both openly gay and trying to battle through the challenges in their off-on relationship, both dependent on Sylvia to bring them together whenever they fall apart.

But the 1950s is an era of repression, where homosexuality is feared. In this setting, Philip is in denial, forcing himself to endure a fractious marriage with Sylvia, who has her suspicions that her husband is gay. As a result, Sylvia herself is conflicted, unsure whether to hang onto her marriage or to get her husband to confront the truth, if only so he can be happy.

The cast, also including Mathew Horne as a range of supporting characters, is very strong. Each actor brings great poise and conviction to their performance, wonderfully dramatizing the internal conflicts within their character.

Alexi Kaye Campbell's terrific writing was observed when the play first premiered at the Royal Court in 2008, and its quality is still obvious.

At first glance the thought of such a complex interweaving of two plots, two settings but with the same characters sounds like a car crash in the making. But the result is a sharp, well observed, and brilliantly executed play that successfully combines humour with pathos.

Jamie Lloyd has retained certain elements of that Royal Court production, which he too directed, most notably Soutra Gilmour's smoke-encrusted mirror that forms the backdrop of the stage. But his sharp direction and the quick turnaround of scenes, often merging the two time settings without confusing the audience, brings real pace to the production, never letting it lose its drive.

The play is stronger when it's within the 1950s storyline. That each character in that setting has something to hide gives each scene more sub-text and more poignancy.

But though the modern scenes may not have quite the tension, their focus is to highlight that though progress in sexual rights have been made, life remains messy. There will always be challenges to overcome, no matter how emancipated we may be on the surface. Inside us we are all battling with something.

A superb production.

To November 9, 2013

Trafalgar Studios, London