★★★ | Passing By, Tristan Bates Theatre
‘Passing By’ is an early work from award winning playwright Martin Sherman (Bent, Mrs Henderson Presents) that was first produced in New York in 1974. In terms of theatrical history, this play was hugely significant.
Rather than being a play about homosexuality itself, where gay people were portrayed only as being tortured and struggling with life, this play is a romantic comedy where the characters just happen to be gay men. This was ground breaking stuff for the era it was written in.
Toby (Rik Makarem) is a hypochondriac artist about to leave New York for a sabbatical in France and Simon (James Cartwright) is a diver, visiting New York to apply for a job as a sports reporter. The pair meet up, sleep together and then experience a bout of acute hepatitis which brings them together in spite of their differences in temperament.
It’s a sweet play and is touching in parts but for me, the humour felt a little dated at times with a sit-com feel to it and some of the comedic moments seemed to fall slightly flat with the audience. The staging was superb with a clever set which captured the early 1970’s period well and made good use of the intimate space of the Tristan Bates Theatre but at times the acting felt almost too exaggerated for such a small space with slap-stick humour which again failed to fully deliver.
Overall, I’d say this is a play which is worth seeing as a diversionary period piece and as an example of an early work from a fantastic pioneering playwright who has contributed a huge amount to modern theatre.
You can catch ‘Passing By’ at the Tristan Bates Theatre until the 30th of November 2013
Buy tickets here: http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/passing_by.asp