EMMA ROBERTS disagrees with God if He does, in fact, hate fags.
ADC, 24-27th November, 11pm. £5-7
Directed by Simon Haines
Thursday night, 10.55pm, and the ADC bar is teeming. Post-swap revellers with painted faces and curried costumes cavort with Pantomime slebs emerging from the changing rooms after a successful second show, who sign autographs for clamorous Footlights fanatics as they meander through the lapping throng.
Most of those present at the bar seem either unaware or uninterested that another show is about to start right on the other side of the wall within five minutes; such is the nature of a late-show at the ADC (especially when it is up against a main-show as notorious as the institutional Panto), yet it feels wrong to me that little over a quarter of the seats are filled inside the auditorium in a theatre which presently contains twice or even thrice that amount crammed into its confines.
As I take my seat in the sparsely filled space I note the drab, scruffy set on a dimly lit stage; canvases draped in cloth, cardboard boxes and hastily-painted plywood. In the centre of all this clutter, an unconsidered painting on an easel faces the audience. It seems to depict birds flying in a red sky, although its sloppiness makes sustained consideration difficult (I later learn it is supposed to represent rows of seats in a cinema). I sit uncomfortably confronted by ill-thought out set design, and hope the imminent performance will not reflect its dreary surroundings.
To my delight, the acting does not depress as much as the scenery and I find myself almost instantaneously captivated by the strong characterisations of the two male leads. Jacob Shepherd plays Toby, a slightly geeky and neurotic New Yorker (gay Woody Allen, yes) and Luka Krsljanin, essays Simon, his younger and ostensibly more composed Floridian lover. In the first scene they lock eyes across a cinema to the portentous Piaf/ Specsavers anthem ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’, and the rest of the play deals with their peculiar yet endearing relationship.
Although the show’s poster couldn’t call more attention to the fact the play centres around a homosexual relationship if it tried, the actual content is surprisingly unconcerned with sexuality. Instead, playwright Martin Sherman focuses on the idea of an impermanent love’s permanent and profound impact on two people, regardless of gender. This is a refreshing break from most of the other plays I have encountered regarding homosexuality, where orientation tends to insist upon itself at the cost of stagecraft.
In Passing By, Sherman manages to create two fleshed-out protagonists who communicate through funny, honest and insightful dialogue. The human fragility of each character and the precarious relationship that exists between them is performed entirely convincingly by Shepherd and Krsljanin; it is genuinely touching and a pleasure to watch.
The lack of an arc to the narrative will certainly leave some unsatisfied. However, I found the charming and understated way in which daunting themes such as love, loss, disillusionment and self-fulfilment were explored more than sufficient in terms of both immediate entertainment and food for mental mastication on the way home. Passing By is not going to blow you away with car chases and choreographed dance routines, and may not leave a lasting impression, but it is a nice little two-hander pulled off with a panache that evades cheese.
As I pass the bar on my way out, even more rammed at 12am and decidedly more uproarious, I feel satisfied in the knowledge that my evening was better spent nestled in the warm, velvety bosom of the auditorium watching quality drama than hoisting my personality onto a bar stool and crying inside.