Review: John Donnelly’s The Pass, at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs

Russell Tovey as Jason, Gary Carr as Ade. Photo Manuel Harlan

Russell Tovey as Jason, Gary Carr as Ade. Photo Manuel Harlan

John Donnelly’s The Pass, currently playing at the Royal Court Upstairs, was pushed into the spotlight as the play about a gay footballer. This is a good media hook but it’s selling the play short. Without ignoring attitudes and issues around homosexuality and football, Donnelly delves deeper into his characters to find universal questions: What would you sacrifice for success? How do you form human attachments if the world around you doesn’t allow for weakness, mistakes, human frailty? Can you ever find your way back if you take the wrong turn?

Donnelly approaches these questions with a lightness of touch, where loss is poignant because happiness is within reach and present. This is probably the biggest achievement for play and production: the characters are mischievous, sexy, playful and the play has their youthfulness and banter at its heart. Continue reading

Review: Let The Right One In, at the Royal Court Downstairs (a National Theatre of Scotland production)

Martin Quinn as Oskar and Rebecca Benson as Eli. Photo Manuel Harlan

Martin Quinn as Oskar and Rebecca Benson as Eli. Photo Manuel Harlan

Overhearing discussions at the interval of the performance was to realise the intensity of feeling surrounding the production of Let The Right One In. Directed by John Tiffany and adapted by Jack Thorne based on the book and film by John Ajvide Lindqvist, it’s the story of a small boy who, in the isolation of his emotional and physical landscape, finds another soul to commit to, and commit he does. Appearances are deceptive, the signs unclear and relationships – human or otherwise – complicated. And then there is blood. Anyone who saw the (swedish) film has a close personal relationship with the story. Talk about great expectations. Continue reading

Review: Death Tax by Lucas Hnath, at the Royal Court Downstairs

death tax review - cast listLucas Hnath’s Death Tax, the second play at Royal Court weekly rep season, starts at the same box of a set The President Has Come to See You occupied, but the similarities end here. While “The President…” was a seat of the pants experience, certainly for the actors, Death Tax is a thoughtful, funny, exposing play about life close to death and life without death. The characters are defined by questions of mortality, money, the moment when their response to a moral and practical challenge changes their life, whether they realise it or not.

The story also makes an interesting leap into the future and imagines a world where immortality is merely a question of funds. Plays rarely step into science fiction territory and, while Death Tax is moderate in its futuristic ambitions, it is still an adventure with a genre theatre rarely touches. More science fiction plays please. Continue reading