THE PRIDE at
Trafalgar Studios, London, August 8-November 9 ****
AS IS at The
Finborough Theatre, London, August 6-31 ****
Southwark Playhouse, London, July 26-August 31*****
At a time when the Russian parliament is clamping down on the promotion
of homosexuality in their schools and our snow sport folk are debating if and
how to protest at their forthcoming Winter Olympics two scorching gay plays
have opened in London containing stark warnings from a past when we were
outlawed by society.
Alexi Kaye Campbell’s celebrated play THE PRIDE gets an elegant revival
in central London and focuses around the perennial problem of if and how to
keep your flies zipped in a long-term stable relationship.
Two parallel couples one current (gay) and one from the 1950’s (hetero)
hit the rocks when a man from each is tempted by anonymous sex. The contrasting
repercussions are the meat of the play.
In the past the straying hubby has a remarkably understanding wife who
organizes that hubby has a fling with her colleague. In the present a guy has a
remarkably non-understanding boyfriend who leaves him for doing the same thing.
The straying husband is crucified by guilt induced by the intolerance of
post-war England and submits himself for horrific aversion therapy, the modern
dumped boyf is troubled by soul searching and submits himself to Nazi role play
and writing for an incredibly well paying lads mag. Matthew Horne from
Catherine Tate’s Nan sketches plays the bad guys on all occasions.
It’s all very witty, occasionally shocking and stuffed with the kind of
speechifying that seldom happens in real life but is common in stage plays. For
such an acclaimed script it’s surprisingly “tell don’t show” as it preaches to
us in the choir but none the less it’s required viewing for anyone who needs a
lesson on how queer oppression screws us up.
Meanwhile I sent Tim Macavoy along to review the first U.S. play written
in the 80s about the AIDS crisis. Here’s his report –
grimy setting of St Vincent’s Hospital, which received most of the patients, is
the ideal environment to explore the lives of several characters affected by
Aids related illness. The couple central to this are Rich and Saul (Tom Colley
and David Poyner), who despite going through a difficult break-up, find
themselves thrown back together when Rich is diagnosed with the condition.
idea of sitting through a story like this seems daunting at first, but actually
As Is finds a respectful level of dark humour, as well as a touching
romantic plot and some genuinely uplifting moments. There are lots of
sketch-comedy skits to break up the play as well as plenty of beautiful
man-flesh on show for the more superficial among us.
writing is raw and honest. The scenes blend together and dialogue overlaps,
it’s a challenge for a director to make this cohesive, but Andrew Keates has
done a fine job. There are a couple of too-shouty, too-frantic moments
(although we should remember, this is New York...) but they’re surpassed by
scenes like the simple list of names read out by the cast - friends who have
performances and a truly authentic off-Broadway vibe make this a wisely chosen
from sexual politics another revival of a vintage Broadway piece that deserves
your attention is the musical TITANIC at the Southwark Playhouse. Not, as you
might think a staging of the Leonardo DiCaprio epic, but a sweeping retelling
of the “ship-hits-iceberg-with-appalling-casualties story packed with luscious
and evocative music and wonderful characters.
conceived as a big Broadway spectacular it actually benefits by being skilfully
downsized for a London fringe theatre stage by gifted director Thom Sutherland.
I’ve been a big fan of the sumptuously orchestrated album for some time and
feared I’d find this reworking too thin but it sounds wonderful as played by
Mark Aspinall’s little orchestra and sung by this phenomenal (and very
Simple but clever
physical theatre techniques bring out all the drama of the sinking and some of
the performances are actually better than the originals. Highly recommended and
often jaw-droppingly good.