The Pride is a play, essentially, about lions. It’s also about family, growing old and not being quite good enough. Big themes for a cast dressed entirely in rather tragic lion onesies.
The Bondi Pavilion Theatre is the perfect setting for this quirky play about Bruce (Brendan Ewing), an aging lion who is disappointing his wife Linda (Adriane Daff) by failing to do the renovations he keeps promising. Sure he’ll make little changes, buying an answering machine, for example, but it’s just not cutting it. Enter James (Russell Leonard), the new, younger, more attractive neighbour lion. He wants to bebestfriends with Bruce. He’ll help out with the wallpapering, bring pot plants, be chivalrous to Linda, anything Bruce wants, and Bruce hates it.
The Pride absolutely nails the shift from goofy and awkward to dark and ominous when James starts to get a little too comfortable in Bruce’s life. Bruce’s rage is palpable, Linda’s disappointment is painful and we can’t decide if James is overacting to hide his ulterior motives or is just innocently following dumb instincts.
Several laugh-out-loud moments – more than one facilitated by Bruce’s ridiculous stick-on moustache – and a rather impressive acrobatic dance scene help to ease but not mask the increasing tension on stage.
There are plenty of clever nods to the lion theme – Linda serves gazelle cake, the (many) children are represented as soft toy lions and the dinner party scene is… well, messy – but overall, it’s easy to forget that this is a play based on lions’ behavour in the wild, and see the issues in this play in the context of human relationships.