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Passing By, Tristan Bates Theatre – Review

Martin Sherman
Directed by Andrew Keates


Pros: Wonderfully portrayed story of two men who meet and fall in love while living in New York.

Cons: I found myself wishing that the play had lasted for longer than eighty minutes, as I was so caught up in the relationship and storyline.

Our Verdict: A fantastic story backed by a great cast. Realistic set, lighting and sound make this a production not to be missed.

Courtesy of Arion Productions

Currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre, Martin Sherman’s Passing By is a romantic comedy written in 1972 focusing on two men who meet in New York and begin a relationship.

The story is also set in 1972: Rik Makarem and James Cartwright play Toby and Simon, who meet at the cinema and end up spending the night together. Having just moved to New York, Simon is feeling lonely in the Big Apple and gravitates towards Toby, an insecure hypochondriac who fears that Simon will end up breaking his heart. As the play progresses we quickly learn that Simon himself has insecurities that he keeps well hidden – in particular his physical health as he fears he is too old to continue his diving career.

What was supposed to be a one-night stand turns into more when Simon tracks Toby down to the wine store where he works as a clerk. Toby is reluctant to start a relationship, as he has received a grant to enable him to live in Paris, while Simon has his heart set on staying in New York and working as a sports anchor on a radio station.

When both Simon and Toby are struck down by hepatitis (forcing them to remain in bed for several weeks), their relationship develops extremely quickly in a short space of time. They alternate between lying in bed and deciding what they will do in New York when they are able to leave the apartment, to barely tolerating each other when their annoying habits are brought to light and they have no means of escape. Directed by Andrew Keats, the relationship between the two is entirely believable and the great comic timing by both actors makes the eighty-minute play thoroughly enjoyable.

The set, a studio apartment in the heart of New York City, is realistic and the sounds of taxi horns and sirens outside add to the excitement and drama of living in the middle of such a hub of activity. Jack Weir’s lighting is also well done, and light streaming in through the blinds again adds to the feeling of being at the heart of Manhattan.

It is refreshing that Sherman focuses on the couple as they are, and does not constantly try to remind the audience that the protagonists are both male. These are just two men who happen to be gay and the relationship is treated as a normal one – as it should be.

All in all, Passing By is an enjoyable story which is performed brilliantly by Makarem and Cartwright, and which boasts strong directing and set design. The revival of this touching and heartwarming production is a credit to all involved. I found myself wishing it had lasted longer than 80 minutes.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Passing By runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 30th November.
Box Office: 020 7240 6283 or book online at http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/ 

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