I went to see The Pride at Trafalgar Studios (read A Younger Theatre’s review of the play here!) and I have to say it is one of the single most inspiring plays I have ever seen. Set simultaneously in 1958 and the present day, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play addresses changing attitudes towards homosexuality and the fear of loneliness.
However, although the play certainly seeks to speak about repressed homosexuality throughout history and the horrific burden of concealing one’s sexuality from loved ones and society, it is also about the effects of having to repress one’s identity, regardless of sexuality or gender. It speaks much louder, and goes much further, than speaking about the issues surrounding homosexuality. It tells everyone – regardless of sex, age, or background – that life cannot be lived against the grain of one’s passions and desires. Oliver, who has come to terms with his homosexuality and wants to live an honest life, says passionately to Philip: “what is the point of this stupid, painful life if not to be honest? If not to stand up for what is in the core of one’s being?” Oliver is saying that life is about discovery, it is about finding who you are, and when you find out something about yourself that is real, you should hold onto it.
The play also addresses loneliness and the gulf that exists between the world and the individual when one experiences feelings that seem different to those expected from society. Sylvia is trapped in her marriage in 1958 to a man who is gay, and she lies in bed at night thinking about her life gone by and the days that she will never get back – tossing and turning, bathing in loneliness. But the message of the play is to search deep for meaning when you are lonely, and to hold onto what you believe in so that you can live the life that you want… or at least try to. It is about people, relationships, seeking what we want and following the path of our desires. As Oliver says: “..the only thing that matters is finding some meaning, some reason, something you can slap the face of brevity with. And say I was here. I existed. I was. And I think the only two ways to do that are through work and relationships. How you changed people. How people changed you. And how you held on. To each other. Or at least gave it a damn good try. That’s what defines your flash in the pan”
At the end of the play, the Philip of 1958 decides to have therapy to “cure” his homosexuality, which will involve looking at homosexual, pornographic images and being sick until feeling totally repulsed by them. He must force himself to be someone other than who he was born to be. But even Philip himself knows that it is impossible to deny strong internal emotions; he asks the doctor whether along with his sexual desires his feelings will be cured, but to this, the doctor has no answer. And this is because one cannot suppress passion.
I look at how much self abuse there is in the world – whether that be drinking too much, taking drugs, smoking, over- or under-eating, self-harm – there seems to be so much that we are always running away from but this play made me think: why are we doing this to ourselves? There was a message throughout The Pride that we should have pride in who we are and we should seek to find out who we can be.