▲ Oh Jong Hyuk, Oliver. Provided by the best play.
Do core values such as liberty, human rights, and love change over time? Would people in the 1950s have craved for the same values as people nowadays? Since when did people start to live up to their own standards rather than fitting themselves to the expectations of society? For any of those who have tried asking at least one of these questions, The Pride may be a play worth watching.
The title of the play, The Pride comes from Pride Parade, which is a marching festival that aims to deliver the message that sexual minorities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) have the right to seek for their individual wants. As the slogan of the play—“The volition to make one's voice heard, the courage that comes from such will, and the pride only the courageous can obtain”—reflects, The Pride encourages minorities to become dauntless and to take pride in themselves.
Although it is already the third time that The Pride is meeting its Korean audience, the play is still expected to draw in a huge audience during the four months of its staging period. The play was first introduced at England's Royal Court Theater in 2008, as the debut work of British playwright and screenwriter Alexi Campbell. After its great success, it was first staged in Korea in 2014. Even though the play is longer—180 minutes—than that of plays performed in Korea, and is also restricted to viewers 17 years, 90 percent of all seats were sold during the two previous turns. Casting Bae Soo-bin and Oh Jong-hyuk, well reputed actors in Korea, and many other popular stage performers, the 2017 version of The Pride is also expected to be a huge success.
The play starts as the stage lighting imprints 1958 on one side of the stage wall. Someone knocks on Philip’s door, and Oliver comes in. Philip and Oliver, the two main characters, share their first, lengthy, awkward conversation. While there is nothing peculiar in their talk, the audience can sense an amorous atmosphere blooming between the two men. As Silvia, Philip’s wife in 1958 comes on the scene to take the two men out for dinner, the time setting shifts to 2017. Philip and Oliver are arguing over Oliver’s fickleness, just like many other couples do. Here, Silvia is not Philip’s wife, but rather the couple’s close friend.
▲ A scene from The Pride. Provided by Focus News
Through Philip, Oliver, and Silvia who live in both time periods, the play puts light on how disadvantaged groups, represented by sexual minorities, have a better reputation compared to the past. While the characters in 1958 are in pain and agony, unwilling to identify themselves as LGBTs, the characters in 2017 are in high spirits to speak out about their sexual preferences. By contrasting the scope of openness of the characters in different time periods, the audience is encouraged to take pride in the progress and history humanity has made so far.
While the play puts more light on Philip and Oliver, the two main protagonists, Silvia also plays a crucial role, representing heterosexuals that make up the majority of the population in most societies. In the 1958 setting, Silvia encourages Philip to accept his sexual preference, which Philip himself tries to deny, and she takes Philip as he is. While her husband’s identity is painful for Silvia as well, she introduces Oliver to Philip saying, “I wish for Philip’s happiness more than my own.” In the present setting, Silvia is a strong advocate of the couple, taking Oliver to the Pride Parade and contributing greatly to Philip and Oliver’s reconciliation. Silvia’s accepting attitude represents how the third party in the LGBTQ issue can contribute in making a better society for minorities.
Other than the mirror, The Pride does an excellent job melting in the stage equipment, time, and place into its plot. In the middle and on the right side of the stage, a mirror and a large window prop are placed. After every scene that delivers an important message regarding the LGBTQ issue, the main characters look into the mirror to ponder upon their identities. While Philip and Oliver are the ones that usually look into the mirror, towards the end of the play, Silvia stands alone in front of the mirror, thinking. As the light turns off, the audience is left to question their stance on the issue.
Also, the natural shift in time allows the audience to sense a sharp contrast in atmosphere between the two time periods. The emotionally stifling mood attributed to the scathing criticism of LGBTQs in 1958 changes into a much lighter, individualistic concern in 2017. In addition, utilizing the setting of London, the play features a rainy sound effect to set a gloomy mood for the scenes in 1958 to emphasize the heavy atmosphere for LGBTQs 70 years ago.
There are values that do not change over time. The only difference is whether people have the actual freedom to state who they are, without being negatively judged or forced to fit the distorted values society seeks for. Yet, the message is clear. Regardless of whether one is a minority in a certain perspective or not, it is valuable in itself to strive to make things right. If seeking for a guideline on what to choose as right and wrong, The Pride will lead one’s way.