The Pride, Crucible Studio

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The Pride, Crucible Studio

HAVING engineered some acclaimed programming for Sheffield’s revived benchmark theatre many eyes will be on Artistic Director Daniel Evans’ deserved return to the stage.

In Alexi Kaye Campbell’s searching and powerful piece he more than warrants his place.

Evans is part of a cast of four firing on all cylinders in a clever, wonderfully-written play that places huge demands on three actors as they flesh out same name characters in a variation of a scenario set in two eras, 50 years apart.

Where such a vehicle could prove gimmicky in the wrong hands, under Richard Wilson’s taut yet sensitive direction it flourishes as a story of love and the wrangle that is human nature spied through the magnifying glass of social evolution.

In a sense two plays under one title linked by a common thread, subtle stage craft allows the stories to unfold and flow while shifting between eras, so emphasising contrasts in and consequences of attitudes and demeanour.

In repressive 1958, married estate agent Philip – a captivating Jamie Sives - has a brief affair with writer Oliver (Evans), a timid sole haunted by feelings society reviles as a “pernicious enemy”. Introduced by wife Sylvia, an impeccable Claire Price, we witness her heart broken by deceit beside creeping realisation, divined via an accusing pen found in the marital bedroom.

This era presents a double tragedy in both her misplaced love and Philip’s denial of who he is, ultimately seeking aversion therapy for his “deviation” when self revulsion explodes in sexual violence, powered by his shame against Oliver’s liberation.

By contrast freely gay 2008 journalist Oliver is promiscuous to the point of wrecking his love with photographer Philip. Weakened by his lack of self control in an anonymous landscape, he calls upon “kindred spirit” Sylvia, now enjoying fresh romance, to engineer a reunion between her husband and the recovering cheat who helped him find himself.

Jay Simpson provides much of the 2008 humour, both as a Nazi uniformed role-play hooker and a Cockney lads mag editor, to add even more layers to an emotionally intoxicating two hours that will have some questioning their own lifestyle compromises. Runs until July 16.

David Dunn