An era-spanning masterpiece

Trafalgar Studios | By Xenobe Purvis
Four Stars

ALEXI Kaye Campbell’s award-winning The Pride gets a powerful revival as part of Jamie Lloyd’s Trafalgar Transformed season at Trafalgar Studios. The play’s protagonists Oliver, Philip and Sylvia exist in two time periods, the 1950s and now, and respond to the social pressures encountered in each. Modern characters bear the inheritance of past ones, while clever crossovers onstage help make the shifts in time seamless. The contrast is fascinating, although the contemporary scenes lack the poignancy and depth of their Fifties parallels.

The cast pass from cut-glass, armchair chatter to modern-day moaning with mesmerizing versatility. Al Weaver’s Oliver is hilarious and heart-breaking, the sexually frank counterpoint to his conflicted love interest, Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton). They move through several incarnations together: from children’s book writer and self-loathing estate agent, to sex addict and unforgiving ex-boyfriend. Hayley Atwell pulls pitilessly at the heartstrings in her role as Hadden-Paton’s unhappy wife, while Matthew Horne can barely be heard through the choruses of laughter he provokes.

Social and political pertinence is the aim of Trafalgar Transformed. Sylvia speaks of the “battles” fought by gay people, and the cast acknowledge the continued struggles of the LGBT community in Russia with placards as they take their bow. Oliver and Philip explore mid-twentieth century homosexual shame and homophobic “cures”, anonymous sex and abusive relationships, depression, loneliness and guilt. Theirs is a troubled yet convincing central romance, riddled with personal insecurities and hugely moving professions of love.

Despite the battles they endure, they are permitted an optimistic future, one which is beginning to free itself from social prejudices. One, indeed, which might even contain marriage. This distinction between the repressed lovers of 1958 and the picnic-going pair of the present day is heartening – pride-inducing, even. Lloyd proves himself, once again, to be a master of powerful and socially engaged theatre.

Cert 12a | By Simon Thomson
One Star

THE LONE Ranger begins with a train crash and ends with a train crash. And it’s basically a train crash the whole time in between.

Costing around quarter of a billion dollars, and based on a character that reached peak-popularity sixty years ago, it is a bloated Western, would-be epic, which pits the titular hero (played by affable, white-toothed, shop manikin Armie Hammer), and his sidekick Tonto (an exceptionally self-indulgent Johnny Depp), against each other, and an assortment of forgettable villains.

It’s little wonder it was such a notorious box-office flop in the States ­– the pacing is tediously sluggish, the action showpieces too perfectly choreographed to be realistic, and too lacking in humour to be ironic. The comic high-point is a man’s head being dragged theatrically through fresh horse droppings, and even that is funnier on paper than it is on screen.

The Lone Ranger is a sorry example of form over substance, more concerned about the next contrived set piece, than story or character, and afflicted by a complacency that seeps into all parts of the film. It assumes an audience won’t care about leaden dialogue, absent chemistry, or bands in 1869 playing tunes that weren’t published until 1897; and if the filmmakers can’t be bothered, why should we?

Donmar Warehouse | By Steve Dinneen
Four Stars

Nick Payne’s follow-up to his award-winning Constellations is a funny, darkly comic examination of the no-win, no-fee compensation culture.

Kevin and Barry eke out a living in a struggling, two-man law office. What they lack in status, they make up for in chemistry; they may not have many clients, but at least the Gregg’s down the road does a mean steak bake. Things go downhill when Kevin is suckered into masterminding a car insurance con, leading to a tense, climactic showdown in Luton County Court.

There is a message – the lengths people will go to when they run out of options – but it’s secondary to the lovingly crafted, insular world Kevin and Barry inhabit, which is a joy to observe.