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The Pass

This delightful play superbly highlights homophobia in football... and then some!


This new play by John Donnelly chronicles the rise, and fall, of Jason – a top premiership footballer with a secret. Spanning twelve years and set in three different hotel rooms, this novel narrative of repressed sexuality and uncontained ego impresses and provokes, right from kick-off up until the final whistle.

We first meet Jason as a wide-eyed seventeen-year-old on the eve of his first professional match, and follow his development, both on and off the pitch, via a series of sexually charged encounters that build up a portrait of a man who is worshiped by the world for his ball-control, yet unable to tackle his own carnal cravings. By the time we find him as a virtual recluse at the age of twenty-nine, irrevocably corrupted by the fame and fortune, it’s not a very pretty picture. This is a piece unafraid to confront the ugly face of homophobia in sport.

Man of the match is Russell Tovey, who, as Jason, delivers a breathtakingly complex characterisation that charts the evolution of a man under enormous pressures to both transcend and conform. The distinctly detailed depictions of Jason at the different points of his life are a master-class in precision performance. And he spends most of the play in just his pants, flaunting an impossibly chiselled body that we can really believe belongs to a world-class athlete.

The same can be said of Gary Carr, who as Ade, Jason’s friend and colleague from the early days, gives us a glimpse of a very different journey. His lack of success at football takes him on a contrasting course that ultimately serves as a mirror in which Jason is unable to bear his own grotesque reflection. Lisa McGrillis gives an accomplished and playful portrayal as Lyndsey, the table dancer who finds herself playing away from home and ends up in defence. Last off the bench, but making a real impact in his professional stage debut, is Nico Mirallegro as the dumb pretty twink who becomes Jason’s plaything in a party scene that takes a deeply dark turn, and sees a disturbing use of a bowl of neat vodka…

We’ll be honest – we don’t know a lot about football. Or care about it that much. But that didn’t stop us enjoying every second of play here. The piece crackles along with exuberant energy and shines a torch into an unfamiliar world where coming out is simply not an option. One of the most innovative ‘gay’ plays that we’ve seen in a while. And did we mention - there is an awful lot of Russell Tovey in his pants. Score.

GT gives this a 5/5

The Pass runs at The Royal Court until March 1st. More details at royalcourttheatre.com

Words: Richard Unwin

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