thu 20/06/2024

Passing, Park Theatre review - where do we go from here? | reviews, news & interviews

Passing, Park Theatre review - where do we go from here?

Passing, Park Theatre review - where do we go from here?

A British-Indian family celebrate their first Diwali, with mixed results

Uneasy coexistence: the cast of 'Passing'Matt Martin

“It’s nothing like Christmas,” Rachel (Amy-Leigh Hickman) hisses at her brother David (Kishore Walker). She’s trying to wrangle her family into their first ever Diwali celebration, but everything’s going wrong. Her dad Yash (Bhasker Patel) is getting on far too well with her boyfriend Matt (Jack Flammiger). And to top it off, mum Ruth (Catherine Cusack) has found everything but the most important item on Rachel’s meticulous shopping list: the matches.

Passing, Dan Sareen’s new “family comedy-drama” at the Park Theatre, raises some interesting points about identity and belonging. But it goes harder on the comedy than the drama, and doesn’t quite deliver on either of them.

Rachel’s desperation to get her family celebrating might be influenced by her grandfather’s deteriorating health. He emigrated from India when Yash was six, and Yash, with no South Asian community around him, has always tried his best to assimilate. But Rachel and David - whose mother is white - weren’t given the choice to engage with Indian culture, and now Rachel wants that choice back. The cosy set shows the sometimes-uneasy coexistence of this dual heritage: garlands of flowers are draped over posters of paintings by Klee, curling over Yash’s beloved record player.
Amy-Leigh Hickman (L) and Jack Flammiger in 'Passing' at the Park TheatreHickman (pictured above, with Flammiger) plays Rachel well, with a brittle kind of mania. Walker’s David is much more relaxed, to the point of being lambasted for not caring enough about anything. His lines get the biggest laughs, but he rises to the dramatic occasion when David and Yash fall out. Rachel and Matt also clash over Rachel’s memories of being teased by a physics teacher at the school they both went to. Matt struggles initially to believe that it was racially motivated. This is a sensitive portrayal of white male privilege, by Sareen, Flammiger, and director Imy Wyatt Corner. It’s not Matt’s fault that he was able to ignore the teacher’s racism back then, but it is his responsibility to believe Rachel now.

Bhasker Patel in 'Passing' at the Park TheatrePassing shows how racism has shapeshifted in modern Britain, sometimes slipping so far under the radar so that it’s hard for BAME people to even convince white people that it is racism. “Discrimination isn’t like it used to be,” says Yash. Classmates called him slurs to his face, while parents and teachers looked on. His children experienced more subtle forms of racism, which continue into their adulthood. “But we’re all white!” Ruth says at one point, shocking the room into silence. “Except Dad.” What would it take, Sareen asks, for Rachel and David’s Indianness to "count"? And why do some white people think that "not seeing colour" is a good thing?

These are all interesting points, but by the time Rachel finally gets her Divali lights working, Passing still hasn’t figured out what it wants to be. The characters are charming and inhabited well by the cast. But they don’t go anywhere. We’re left in pretty much the same situation at the end of the play as at the beginning. The only difference is the lighting.

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