The Pride

Thu 16th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Steve Hartill

at 22:14 on 17th Aug 2012

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'The Pride' comes from a comical concept: three actors, on stage, pretending to be lions who lead very human lives. They’re all dressed in lion costumes from head to toe, and the stage is set with the back-drop of a living room wall, and a table and chairs. The plot is centred on the domestic drama of Bruce (Brendan Ewing), the patriarch of the pride, and his wife, Linda (Adriane Duff). They have their own pride with cubs galore, but the presence of their new neighbour, James (Russell Leonard) threatens their domestic bliss. They also deal with very modern and pragmatic problems associated with human society, particularly the renovations to the house that Bruce is under pressure to complete.

There’s a lot of fun and humour in this play, expertly executed by its limited cast, whether it’s Bruce and Linda recording an answering machine message or Bruce putting down the enthusiastic James over words that are five letters long. The comedic contrast between Bruce’s cynical and critical attitude and James’ endearing exuberance is fantastic to watch, and Brendan Ewing does an excellent job in delivering some hilarious lines. The dynamics within the trio are excellent, with each relationship being a real pleasure to watch. There are also moments within the play that are truly heart-warming and amusing, such as Bruce having a conversation with the stuffed lion toy that represents his favourite cub, Cliff.

And yet the play manages to mix in some moments that are touchingly tragic, and the simple synopsis is more complicated than at first glance. James is no intentional usurper, but just an eager young lion who idealises Bruce and is then embittered by his hero’s apathy. Russell Leonard captures this change in character incredibly well, with a gradual change from the bubbly and happy James at the start to the cruel and gruff James by the end. Linda also goes through her own transformation, from the happy wife of Bruce into a more critical and unsatisfied spouse, and of course, Bruce himself goes through the most important change of all, that of age. The way that the actors capture Bruce’s steady decline into old age is spectacularly touching, and the comic devices within the play come with their own tragic relevance by the end. I strongly recommend seeing this play, for something original, witty, and moving all at the same time.

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Thomas Brada

at 10:00 on 18th Aug 2012

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The performers did 'The Pride proud'. The narrative of this play-cum-comedy performance revolves around a dogmatic father of eight, with a luxuriously thick head of hair and a lovely furry belly. Did I mention that the actors are supposed to be lions? Said father, amusingly named Bruce, is the proud leader of his lion pride (get the pun in the title yet?) whose authority is gradually undermined by his own lethargy and the emergence of a younger lion with a greater sense of motivation and masculinity.

Within this surreal context, 'The Pride' skilfully manages to create an atmosphere of hilarity, but the performance is constantly punctuated by serious and increasingly sinister undertones. Beginning with an image of quaint, domestic, feline bliss, it slowly descends into pandemonium as the relationship between Bruce (Brendan Ewing) and his neighbour, James (Russell Leonard), begins to strain. James' enthusiasm grates with Bruce's love of the slow-paced life and the situation is exacerbated by Bruce's wife, Linda's (Adriane Duff), increasing fondness for the helpful young lion. As James continues to assist Bruce in the installation of a new jungle-panorama themed wallpaper, Bruce increasingly loses his patience, culminating in a messy scene (emotionally AND literally) involving some dubious-looking gazelle cake. As James feels increasingly fond towards grumpy old lion Bruce, Bruce begins to unravel in the company of the motivated lion-man. It is in this emotional unravelling that the play derives its often moving thread of gravitas. Swinging between uproarious comedy and complex melancholia, 'The Pride' manages to convey serious issues with a unique sense of humour. The becoming costumes, minimalist set and 'meaty' props work perfectly alongside the dry and often acerbic comic deliveries. This comedy stands in stark contrast to the more serious themes which the production seeks to address. Supported by subtle music choices and powerful performances, the sombre scenes are all the more moving thanks to the tonal juxtaposition with the earlier, light-hearted scenes.

I would like to find fault with the performance but I can only find one. The stage gets very messy. But even this flaw works to the production's advantage as the growing pile of mess comes to mirror the burgeoning sense of chaos and internal confusion. I have to add, this production even manages to succeed where higher-budget productions have failed. The performers have all mastered the art of the well-placed swear word and rather than using the f-bomb as a comedic cop out, manage to imbue their curse words with real meaning and emotion. I have gone on too long stroking the egos of this fine production and its catty cast, but I really cannot recommend it enough. An eclectic combination of the Mighty Boosh, 'The Lion King' and something out of a marriage counselling session, Pride is a roaring success and a CAT-astrophically good piece of comedy and heartfelt performance.

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