Dan Jarvis Green Carnation Company

Director Dan Jarvis talks to Frankly My Dear UK about THE PRIDE and what audiences can expect from the show

Green Carnation Company head to Hope Mill Theatre this week for their debut production, THE PRIDE.

Switching between alternate timelines set in 1958 and 2008, THE PRIDE follows a love triangle between three characters and the different routes their lives could take, dependent on the decade they were born in. The deeply moving play by Alexi Kaye Campbell examines changing attitudes to sexuality, looking at intimacy, identity and the courage it takes to be who you really are.

Ahead of its opening at Hope Mill Theatre, Director Dan Jarvis talks to Donna Kelly of Frankly My Dear UK about THE PRIDE and why he believes it is important for this story to be told.

Frankly My Dear UK (FMD): Can you start by telling us a little bit about THE PRIDE?

Dan Jarvis (DJ): THE PRIDE is a play by a writer called Alexi Kaye Campbell. It’s a rarely performed piece but I think it’s one that really resonates with people, particularly the LGBT community. It is a gay themed play and the way it deals with the theme and issues within in is really interesting. You get a lot of gay plays that are coming out stories or where the characters are fighting a homophobia whereas THE PRIDE is a little bit more nuanced. It’s set in two timelines, 1950s and the modern day, and involves three characters in both timelines and is almost like how their lives would be if they were alive in that timeline. So in the 1950s, we’ve got a heterosexual marriage couple and a new man who enters their relationship and ends up having an affair with the husband. In the modern day, it’s a gay couple going through a break-up process due to one of them having an addiction to anonymous sex. Their friend tries to get them back together but also tries to reclaim some of her own identity.

FMD: What was it about this particular play that appealed to you as a Director?

DJ: I read it just over two years ago in the National Theatre bookshop and I saw a lot of myself in the characters. I thought the writing in it is really beautiful. In the 1950s, you have these beautiful poetic monologues that is just some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read. In the modern day, you’ve got funny, witty, quite often crass, raw dialogue between the characters. It’s such a difference and that’s something we’re really trying to bring out in our production, those two different styles. It’s sort of a 1950s drawing room drama, then gritty, modern day scenes. I think as a gay man, Dan [Ellis] and I both saw a lot of ourselves in the characters Oliver and Phillip as well.

FMD: The play is very comical but also tackles some sensitive issues such as sexuality, intimacy and identity, it is a challenge to balance the two? How have you approached that as a Director?

DJ: I think when we did our first read through, everything came across very poignant and beautifully acted but at the end, we all felt like we needed a stiff drink because it’s so emotionally heavy. Finding that comedy is really important because you need to have levity. You need to bring out that comedy otherwise you just going to put the audience through something that will depress them. The characters are very witty, they have that sort of turn of phrase, that quick wit where they can turn on each other. Also, life isn’t one thing or the other. You do find humour in dark situations.

As well as the trio of characters who appear in both timelines, you also have a fourth actor who plays multiple roles and Alex who plays that character does it so well. He plays a really brilliant comedy act in act one where he plays a fetish rent boy and the comedy of the awkwardness of that scene is brilliant. In act two, he plays a lad’s mag editor whom one the characters has a job interview with and everything he says comes out wrong. Those scenes are so crucial for bringing out that comedy and stop it being a really heavy play.

FMD: The play switches between alternate timelines set in 1958 and 2008. How do you feel that attitudes towards sexuality have changed, if at all, and what issues do you feel are still affecting the LGBTQ+ community today?

DJ: One of the reasons I love the play is the fact is what it doesn’t say is “weren’t things terrible in the 50s and aren’t they brilliant now?” What is says is that problems and issues change. In the 1950s, it’s all about a repressive atmosphere and homosexuality being illegal. It’s seen as mental illness and something of deep shame. In the modern day, the characters have that very literal freedom. As an example, Oliver in one of the modern day scenes dismisses gay pride as some big party where everyone gets drunk. His character doesn’t appreciate the battles that have been fought to get there. That’s all about what we have thrown away. In this freedom, Oliver – who is the one who is addicted to anonymous sex – he could have what he claims he wants, which is this monogamous relationship with his boyfriend, but he also throws that away. I think that’s where it shifts. In the 1950s, society is repressing homosexuality and in the modern day, its issues within the gay culture itself.

The cast of THE PRIDE in rehersals

FMD: THE PRIDE has previously been performed in London starring Hayley Atwell and Matt Horne, and in New York starring Ben Whishaw, Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough. What can audiences expect from this interpretation?

DJ: It’s at Hope Mill Theatre which is a gorgeous, intimate theatre and I think that proximity to the actors means you’re going to really be brought in. Also, we really want to make the 50s and the modern day scenes very different stylistically so we’ve actually looked towards films quite a lot. The 50s scenes have that saturated colour and style that you’d see in films by Douglas Sirk or Todd Haynes. It’s very melodramatic. In the modern day, it looks a bit grubby and it sounds a bit gritty. The dialogue is much more explicit and frank and we’re really playing with those elements. What’s really nice about the play and the way in which we’re directing it is that scenes aren’t so clear cut, they overlap and intrude on each other. There’s moments when characters in different timelines are in the same space and they can’t see each other but they are aware there is someone else there. It’s playing with those timelines and having a bit of fun with that.

FMD: Why do you think it is important for this story to be told?

DJ: I think there is an important message about the LGBT community being aware of its history and of where we’ve come from and where we’re going to. I think one of the things I really admire about the play is that it’s not judgemental. It’s not saying that Oliver is wrong for not wanting monogamy but it’s also not saying that its right either. It’s presenting it and encouraging people to have those conversations. As a theatre company, one of our main points is to try and facilitate those conversations so we’re actually doing quite a lot outside of the performance. We’re releasing a series of short films online which look at discussions and themes within the play. We’ve also commissioned some academics to do some articles which we’re going to give out as complimentary programmes to everyone who attends the play so actually, there’s a resource around there about discussion and having those conversations.

FMD: THE PRIDE marks the debut production for Green Carnation Company. Can you tell us a little but more about the company and the kind of productions we can expect to see over the coming months?

DJ: What we want to do is produce high quality theatre that deals with issues within the LGBT community. It goes back to that idea that it’s not about LGBT community versus the rest of the world, it’s actually taking a look in at ourselves and exploring that. All of our shows will have an LGBT perspective but it won’t always necessarily be obvious. We’re looking at plays, particularly modern plays that give a unique insight into that culture and encourage people to discuss.

THE PRIDE runs at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester until 20 October 2018