IT is a long time since Claire Price gazed upon the crooked spire in Chesterfield and considered it home.
The actress, starring in the Crucible Studio’s new offering The Pride, was born in the north Derbyshire town before her acting parents moved to a village near Derby to be closer to the stages that demanded their talents most.
“It’s quite funny driving past the spire on my way up here knowing I wasn’t born far from there,” she says.
“My parents suffered and didn’t have the kind of things other people had, but they loved what they did for a living so that’s all I was ever going to do.”
Claire, who is arguably best known for her TV role as DS Siobhan Clarke in Scottish cop drama Rebus, is well acquainted with Endcliffe Park, however.
“It is my fourth time in the same digs,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed running in the park in the past.”
Her lot isn’t quite so happy or straightforward as Sylvia, the wife of a man who is confronting his homosexuality in two different eras.
“In both times the put-upon woman gets out of being put upon and that’s quite fun to do,” says Claire, whose stage husband Philip is played by Scottish actor Jamie Sives.
In the 1958 and 2008 aspects of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s acclaimed play he falls in love with writer Oliver, a return to the stage for Sheffield Theatres artistic director Daniel Evans, with various consequences and emotional displays.
“She’s very clued up in the latter part. Emotionally she’s very clued up in the ’50s as well; she’s probably unusual for the people of her time in that she doesn’t condemn anyone for what they are or feel.
“She’s just hurt because of how it impacts on her. She’s very empathetic and very kind in that she puts herself in everybody’s shoes and tries to see what it must be like.
“Even though she is betrayed in every way you can imagine, emotionally and literally, she still manages to feel kindness and want the best for everyone involved.”
Like director Richard Wilson, Claire is keen to stress The Pride is not a ‘gay play’ but more a love story, about being true to yourself.
“You can’t change anybody in this. The most tragic thing in this story is Philip tries to change himself.
“People love who they love. You can’t stop them from doing that.
“There’s a lot of complexity. It’s a play about gay issues. It’s also about being a human being and about how people get defined by their times and the people around them. And how they agree to live by that definition even though it’s actually causing them a great deal of suffering.
“That’s true in 1958 and 2008. That’s what the play is kind of saying; just because you think you can now sleep with who you want to you are free of the same kind of assumptions about who you are because of how you behave. It’s about how you define yourself, given that you live within a tribe, which we all do.
“We still tell people what they are, given what they do, whether that’s about being gay or having a political belief. We have cultural assumptions about how you will live and behave. I think the play is saying you have to define yourself all the time against those things and keep finding out who you are.
“Homosexuality was condemned as an aberration and now we live in a completely different world, in this country. We’re better off by far. People don’t go to prison, but it’s still very difficult to discover your true nature.”
The Pride arguably brings an overdue return from Claire. In the noughties she was a regular on the Crucible stage, including Much Ado About Nothing with Sam West, opposite Derek Jacobi in Don Carlos and The Tempest, also featuring Daniel Evans, and Richard III with Kenneth Branagh.
After a strong spell in TV, she is back concentrating on theatre, hoping to work with more new writing, having been previously associated with classical theatre.
Campbell’s script certainly provides challenge and confronts timeless issues, in an innovative fashion.
“We’re the same people in different circumstances, with different sets of worries,” she says of the 50-year leap in scenes.
“My character is an actress in both times, but in one she’s given up and another she’s about to come into her prime.
“In one time she’s in a marriage based on the wrong things and in another she’s just got into a relationship with a fabulous bloke and it’s all going really well.
“I see her as a journey from one version or herself to another version.”
The Pride opened last night and runs until July 16.