Opera House, Manchester
Fresh from its acclaimed revival in London The Pride arrives here as part of a short regional tour.
It’s sensibly staged in a theatre with half the stalls seats curtained off in order to create the necessary intimacy for its intense, sometimes explicit study of two gay love affairs conducted 50 years apart.
Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first play premiered in 2008 and has quickly become something of a modern classic.
By juxtaposing his characters between 1958 and the present the play conveys simultaneously just how much – and sometimes how little – has changed in society’s acceptance of same-sex love.
And how all relationships have to find the courage for commitment sooner or later.
As well as being a deeply-moving drama it is also an intensely funny play.
Among the long and revelatory speeches there is uproarious humour, which is bold enough to both laugh at, and along with, the modern-day gay experience.
A first-class cast of four imbue it all with heartfelt honesty, and if Matthew Horne’s appearance (Gavin having a night out without Stacey!) adds to its wider audience appeal, then all the better, because this is a play with a broader message about acceptance.
Horne, as a magazine editor – one of three roles he plays – delivers a carefully balanced performance that can shock, amuse and sadden, sometimes in a single sentence.
But even this excellent turn is checked by those given by Harry Hadden-Paton, Naomi Sheldon, and especially Al Weaver as the central character Oliver.
All acted out before a stage-sized tarnished mirror this is a play that can make any audience reflective.
In the heated run-up to the Winter Olympics, it also can’t help itself but be both personal and political, which is why its cast hold up small placards proclaiming To Russia With Love, for the first of their several curtain calls.
It runs here until Friday 24 January 2014.