My experience of Stuart Reilly has been limited to seeing him in a couple of Bench productions and my view of the man is that he’s a mighty fine actor. It turns out he’s a blindingly good director, too, as Bench’s latest - Alexei Kaye Campbell’s The Pride – proves very nicely.
A cast of four tell parallel stories occurring in 1958 and 2008 – stories of prejudice and loss and fear and self-loathing and – ultimately – the redemptive powers of understanding and love.
Don’t get me wrong – this is no preachy, nauseating claptrap, but a play of great depth, great humour and great humanity.
All of the cast contribute but particular praise goes to Craig Parker and Robin Hall. These performances tower throughout, but their Act 2 scene, from the 1950s’ section and set in a park, is beautiful and breathtaking. Effectively a monologue by Hall with Parker adding the odd interjection but otherwise stood, silent, dying inside as she – tenderly and with love – tears his life apart.
As their lover, Christopher Davey gives a gut-wrenching rendition of a man revolted by his own existence and his scene with Chris Vanstone as an aversion-therapy doctor is deeply disturbing.
Vanstone is particularly versatile with his three characters being nicely differentiated.
Be warned - the language is strong – as strong as the English language can get – and, occasionally, the onstage action is very uncomfortable.
But if you’re prepared to cope with that in a piece of theatre – book your seats now.
One not to miss.