by John Donnelly.
Royal Court Theatre (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 1 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7565 5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 17 February.
Sex-and-soccer shocker scores in script and production.
Homosexuality in sport: a dicey business. It’s taken a generation to make any progress, which remains slow, painful and marginal. The history of those who have `come out’, has, until recently not been a happy one.
Which is why John Donnelly’s The Pass, brilliantly directed by John Tiffany, focussing on closeted gays in football, remains brave even if in the end it confirms other prejudices about the toxicity of the football environment.
Jason and Gary are two young footballers sharing a hotel room before a life-changing, try-out game in Bulgaria. Professional contracts are to be awarded. But to whom?
Competitively joshing and testing each other out as if trying to `pass’ as candidates for the big league of male adulthood, the homoerotic tension between them, implied but never articulated, is palpable.
The Pass could have been just another `coming out’ tale. What makes it unusually engrossing is the sharpness and emotional risk-taking in Donnelly’s writing, his skill at showing the mind-games inherent in professional sport and the bargains that have to be struck to succeed.
Tiffany’s direction, physical and edgy, also makes The Pass impressive, plus a mesmerising performance from Russell Tovey, all swagger and lip, and dangerously manipulative with it. Beside him Gary Carr’s lithe, Black Ade appears an innocent.
Jason becomes a footballing star but at what cost to his soul? Ade, confused by a loving embrace shared the night before the match with Jason, fails to make the grade but is living a truthful `out’ life.
In two extraordinary scenes, Donnelly also shows the cost of keeping-up a public image. Jason sees himself as “a warrior, going out and doing battle `every week in front of a baying mob,” he tells pole dancer Lyndsey, invited up for the night to prove his `straight’ credentials – an image that tells us as much about self-delusion as it does vulnerability.
Tiffany’s production couldn’t be more different in tone to Let the Right One In, his National Theatre Scotland premier, seen at the Royal Court. Both, however, share a sense of the iconic and moments that touch the heart.
Jason: Russell Tovey.
Ade: Gary Carr.
Lyndsey: Lisa McGrillis.
Harry: Nico Mirallegro.
Director: John Tiffany.
Designer: Laura Hopkins.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Movement: Eddie Kay.
Assistant director: Holly Race Roughan.
The Pass> was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Sloane Square, London on 13 January 2014.