Review – The Pride, Trafalgar Studios

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Well, it’s been a quite a while.poster

The Whingers have been busying themselves doing other things. We’ve been enjoying the summer (once it finally arrived) with copious alfresco eating and drinking (obvs) and not really that keen to be sweating it out in the dark in search of amusement.

Andrew took the waters in Lourdes, Phil took to the waters in Spain and found entertainment elsewhere in the brilliant Breaking Bad (he’s just finished off season 4) and is now working on Andrew to check it out. Let’s hope Sonia Friedman finds the time to become addicted too (Andrew thinks she probably has people to watch it for her) and puts one of its cast (Bryan Cranston or Giancarlo Esposito or Aaron Paul?) on the London stage despite the rather bizarre situation of it not yet appearing on proper telly here.

The only theatrical sortie between us was when Phil returned to The Book of Mormon and he’s happy to report that the cast seemed as fresh as daises despite being 6 months into the run.

Yes, we’ve been otherwise engaged and now the thrilling news that we’ve 160 new Barbara Cartland novels to get through suggests our theatre going is likely to become even more intermittent. But before we curl up in a miasma of fluffy romance we found time to wonder why Lord Webber’s new musical has been given such a dull title. Did a team of people come up with Stephen Ward deliberately to avoid what happened last time? Of course we don’t want to suggest that it won’t be anything less than magnificent. But if it isn’t won’t some smart Alec christen it Terminal Ward or Leavin’ Bored?

And thanks for the flood of enquiries as to where we’ve been. All three of them. You know who you are. Thanks for thinking of us.

So it took Alexi Kaye Campbell‘s The Pride to lure us back, despite some dubbing it a ‘gay play’ and performed at the rather unprepossessing Trafalgar Studios.

Ah the parallels! We don’t want to go into detail, but we’ll just say that one of the characters is called Philip and leave it there shall we?

1958. Philip is apparently happily married to Sylvia. She illustrates children’s books and brings her author, the lonely Oliver, home to meet her husband before they go all out for an Italian (meal that is, they’re not that liberated). Big mistake? Or is it? Does Sylvia see a side to her husband that needs exploring?

So far so Rattigan. We switch to 2008 with new Philip, Oliver and Sylvias, the first two a gay couple splitting up just before Gay Pride, the latter a sounding board for the promiscuous and needy Oliver who needs to bang on to her about the break up.

The play neatly switches back and forth between the two periods contrasting repression and apparent freedom. Sexual liberation comes with complications and consequences. And although it’s well-directed by Jamie Lloyd to be both funny and touching the writing occasionally swerves towards didacticism. The performances, however, are splendid, Harry Hadden-Paton, Al Weaver and Hayley Atwell* especially fine as the buttoned-up fifties Philip, Oliver and Sylvia respectively. All this with the added bonus of Matthew Horne in a trio of cameos, a hilarious rent boy who supplies specialist fantasies (a particular irony in the one we get to witness), irritating lad’s mag editor and uptight psychiatrist.

Lured back to theatre-going the Whingers enjoyed the showers of rain on Soutra Gilmour’s distressed mirror set (“probably a metaphor” – Andrew) though the precipitation was almost negated by the appearance of on-stage balloons. Thankfully no one released them to signify the sexual freedoms gained over fifty years. For this we must be grateful.

The cast brandish “To Russia, With Love” placards at the curtain call. That’s one way of getting free column inches in the press and encouraging some who weren’t already ovating to ovate. Whilst appreciating the gesture, the Whingers are reluctant ovaters so stayed Putin our seats.

Rather Long Footnote
* We didn’t expect to see Hayley Atwell appearing, we were warned at the time of booking that ” the producers cannot guarantee that the role of Sylvia will be performed by Hayley Atwell”, which is possibly why our seats were so cheap (£15 third row stalls). We didn’t mind much, but were glad we did see her as she’s very good. Apparently we have Tim Walker to thank for her appearance according to this. But as Mark Shenton pointed out the circumstances do set a worrying precedent.

Mr Walker (AKA Mandrake) is, of course, soon to make an appearance in Top Hat as an Italian waiter and an Italian sailor. Phil grabbed a brief ‘interview’ with the budding hoofer after The Pride and asked him if he was nervous. ‘Top Hat’ Tim replied that he wasn’t, but did confess to being ‘excited’. The Whingers look forward to an astute producer finding parts for them in a West End musical.



8 Responses to “Review – The Pride, Trafalgar Studios”

  1. Lisa Says:

    where’d you get £15 tkts?

    Glad to have you back, etc.

    • Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

      Not sure how we did it. Just happened to be £15 that night, possibly because (as we were warned at time of booking) Atwell might not be playing the role that night.
      Perhaps worth checking the box office to see if there’s any other nights she may not appear and hope she turns up anyway.
      There’s supposed to be a few dates up to 7th Sept when she may be missing (due to filming commitments) but can’t find the exact dates.

  2. Claire Says:

    Some of us were secretly worrying about you 😉
    Glad you’re back. I can recommend “Grounded” which is just transferring to The Gate…

  3. Kat Says:

    “Thankfully no one released them to signify the sexual freedoms gained over fifty years. For this we must be grateful.”

    Gorgeous. Missed you x

  4. Sal Says:

    Yes in full agreement with the above comments, you two are irreplaceable and lengthy silences even for amateur dilettantes are ominous, suggesting you are drying out at the Priory or some other posh rehab spot – altho nothing as horrid as prayer at Lourdes was envisaged by your faithful readers unless you are referring to Madonna’s daughter who bears that name and by coincidence dresses like Phil, perhaps even in Phil’s discarded garments?

  5. Boz Says:

    I thought I’d give this one a miss because I’d seen Royal Court production fairly recently. Then I looked it up and that was in 2008 and now I’m in the corner of the room with a bottle of gin trying to work out where the last five years of my life have gone.

    …Gin, probably.

  6. Andrew Whetstone Says:

    Yes I was worried as you stopped dead at Private lives and thought they have deserted their posts on gone on hols.

    I can report two oddities at the National..{Liola &
    Edward 11…the latter must be seen to be believed for collectors of disastrous and misconceived productions
    of classic historical plays which crosses Horrible Histories,the krankies and Monty Python into the oddest
    production you will have ever seen at the NT..Whingers
    get your arses down there but mind the red hot poker..yes
    it’s that one]
    Liola…Pirandello…set solidly in sun drenched sicily circa
    1912 or thereabouts but all the peasants etc; sporting broad oirish accents and confusing a lot of the punters
    especially when the olive and grape harvest were shepherded in….many were trying to work out where this
    continually sundrenched corner of Fair Hibernia the play was set .
    No interval. Under 90 minutes. Cannot fault performances or gypsy on stage band. But basically as flat as the oirish/
    sicilain wine ,the product of the pressed plastic prop grapes.
    NT surely there was something more substantial to put on in this lacklustre half hearted season?
    sicilian sparkling wine which the plastic prop grapes are expected to produce. The question is why NT,why bother
    with such an insubstantial piece of nothing.

    The other production at the NT the whingers have not seenng but should rush along to see on the basis of pure dreadfullness and misconceived intentions is Marlowe’s
    Edward 11 [yes the red hot poker play].

    You have to see to believe how awful it is…..
    [1] just about the worst stage set I have seen in 58 years
    of play going….Portacabin in Merry Olde E

    sicilian sparkling wine being pressed from the plastic prop
    grapes. question:NT why bother with this?

    But if the above did not impress or move me…the next truly awful late summer offering surely must rank amongst the worse productions I have seen at the NT. That goes to
    the truly misconceived production of Marlowe’s Edward 11.

    It was sad to watch such a disaster of a historical play which so shocked and impressed back in ’71 or thereabouts at the Picadilly theatre with one Ian mckellen in the title role.

    It is one of the few plays I have seen in over 35 years of attending NT productions where the frozen expressions of the audience were akin to those of the audience in Mel Brook’s Springtime for hitler number in the Producers.

    It sports the ugliest and silliest set to have plonked..not graced the Olivier stage…nay…any stage in living memory.
    You have to see the

    sicilian champagne this odd village may be producing from plastic prop grapes. Why bother NT?

    Next is an unbelievably bizaare,odd,weird,messy and basically silliest production of a historical classic play ever at the National…namely Edward 11….plus the ugliest stabsurdge set I have ever seen,not only at the national but in my
    55 years of theatre going.

    I saw a production of this play sometime in the early 70’s
    with one Ian Mckellen in the title role and it was majestic,shocking ,moving etc;

    I do not know what the direct of this shambles was thinking off but certainly he has achieved some degree of the theatre of the a

    champagne this offshore Irish/s

  7. Andrew Whetstone Says:

    Sorry for my own shambles of typing and ghost in my machine….Theatre of the absurd ? applies to Marlowe’s
    Edward 11 as directed by one Joe Hill-Gibbins.

    Please sacrifice £12 and see it and post your thoughts
    on this odd and messy production.

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