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The Pride @ Richmond Theatre

| Theatre | 30/01/2014

The Pride
Naomi Sheldon and Harry Hadden-Paton

Showing until February 1, 2014 // Jamie Lloyd Productions

A middle-class 1950s wife invites a children’s author to dinner. It sparks a chain of events that, as the play plays-out, seem inevitable. We wait for what may emerge from the distressed and gilt-edged (or guilt-edged) mirror; the larger-than-life looking-glass so effective you wonder if it’s written into the script. The plummily poetic language of said author Oliver is splendidly delivered by Al Weaver, interspersed with genuinely witty dialogue that proves a hallmark of playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell. Swinging from deep pathos to high humour no small achievement when, quips aside, Oliver’s speech is stilling.

Likewise we’re suddenly transported to, shall we say, a more contemporary scene. Oliver’s Utopia is not all it’s cracked up to be. Better or worse, we ask ourselves before he answers that “The fact is, it depresses me.” Traditional familial structures post-war have barely shifted. The open expressiveness of the new millennia crashes in in glittering contrast. Oliver can’t cope with all of the choices. Switch-back to the past where the repressed husband, a darkly brilliant Harry Hadden-Paton, dismisses his wife’s compatriot as would never be acceptable today. Fine detail delineates a rich brocade, threaded through with Mathew Horne’s multiple roles – all masterfully handled, he delights every time.

The Pride

Al Weaver and Mathew Horne

The achingly repressed subtext of the 1950s is suffocating but so is the out-there bravura of its contemporary counter-plot. “I’m no good, I’m un-loveable…” wails Oliver in parallel with the husband who rues the memory of love that “fills me with shame, with disgust.” A two-way mirror in which all is reversed and all is the same. Fundamental questions about how human-beings live and love cause the briefest focus on the complexities of the global picture. However, Campbell’s robust wordsmithing goes the distance. Act One could easily be a play entire under the steady yet sensitive reins of original director Jamie Lloyd.

The stage clears for Act Two. Then, the wife appears quite literally as a reflection of the truth. It’s an exemplary and affecting monologue by Naomi Sheldon, staring into “the face of a woman who has forgotten who she is, and who has been forgotten…” She is unforgettable.


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