As Red Stitch’s The Pride opens with a Phillip Glass string quartet and two sharply-dressed men staring at each other across a spotless room, there’s no hope that it’s about a group a lions. And when a wife appears, it’s all over red rover in terms of surprise.
Alternating between the UK in the 50s and the nows – although from the design it could be the 60s or 70s (were skirts that short in the 50s?) – a threesome with the same names dovetail stories about how life as a gay men (with gorgeous hag, of course) has got better.This positive and embracing premise supports characters who are full of doubt, fear and self-disgust and the productions passion for the “issue” is earnest and genuine, but The Pride doesn’t move much further than the issue. Director Gary Abrahams finds the moments of heartbreak and the balance of the humour, but with overly-passionate performances, the dialogue feels like a series of angry lectures, with the likes of the only-gay-men-understand-the-difference-between-emotional-and-physical-sex one, the AIDS one, the it’s-ok-to-say-queer one, the how-dare-youngsters-use-gay-to-mean-something-else one and the deep-down-I-knew one.
The heart of Alexi Kaye Cambell’s 2008 play (which won some impressive UK awards) and the emotional punch of its broken souls trying to find hope gets lost in the worthy lecturing. And who is it speaking to? If it’s to silly old straight people who have no idea; they aren’t in the audience to be told how small minded they are. It feels like it’s yelling at the audience, “We’re here we’re queer: Get used to it”, while it’s supportive audience are trying to say, “We know, we love you: Lets have a drink”.
Ultimately The Pride is about honesty and being true to yourself with un underlying theme that defining anyone by their sexuality is ridiculous. And this is where this production is the most frustrating. There seems no reason for the attraction between either couple, other than they they all like cock. Without showing the love or the reason for the love, it becomes an eye-rolling night about men who are defined by their sexuality.
And it’s all happening on a set that is so shabbily put together that its intelligent concept is destroyed by the glad wrap windows, tinfoil wall and stapled carpet. Sure a carpet flap and visible staples have nothing to so with the artistic integrity of a work, but why have anything that distracts from the world on the stage, especially something that is so easy to fix? The tiny things are like salt in a meal: when it’s perfect, it’s invisible, but too much or little ruins it.
I’ve already read The Pride described as a “gay play”. Like gay marriage/relationship/anything (other than Golden Gaytime), this little adjective continues to support the notion that homosexuality needs to be defined because it’s different and not normal. And that sucks. I don’t give a toss about seeing a gay play; I want to see a play.