Passing Through is a show-case of Kingston University student playwrights and comes in 2 parts. I saw Part 1 - which consists of 3 plays ‘questioning how death affects murderers and victims’. Part 2, focusing on family and loyalty, plays in repertory with Part 1.
Passing Through is a good show-case for these promising writers, programmed well to keep individual pieces short, interesting and thematically linked.
The first piece, Last Supper by Nik Way is a neat little examination of faith, which sees a vicar (Thomas Waddle) enter the lives of a lesbian couple (Laura Walton and Olivia Howell) just before an accident which turns their life around. Beginning with interesting Bible vs Hitchens monologues, we’re introduced to the two opposing views of the characters with surprising subtlety - Way managing to avoid descending into preaching on either side.
Once the characters meet at a dinner party, the awkward unspoken tension between them is nicely held, and the shock of the accident is ably conveyed by Walton and Waddle. Although the bereavement-induced conversions on both sides aren’t quite believable, the point raised about ‘seeing the world through different eyes’, with the priest and atheist finding liberation and comfort respectively, is both thought-provoking and poignant.
She is more formally experimental, with Laura Walton, Olivia Howell and Jayde Edwards talking in circles about an unseen ‘she’. The same conversation is repeated, word for word, but in changing tenses, intersected by scenes of the girls laughing at body bags, and in custody complaining about their ‘suicide suit’ being unflattering. As the cyclical conversation about ‘she’ repeats each instance becomes more anxious and fretful, each more revealing, until the understanding that we are witnessing the inner conversations of one psychopathic woman dawns at exactly the right pace. Performances are strong throughout, and writer Samantha Marlow manages to make form and content mutually beneficial.
The final piece, A Hand to Stain the Sea is a kind of neighbourhood whodunnit, comprising of interviews with residents of a London street after a brutal arson attack. The simple device of an empty doorway on stage allows the various characters - the middle-class neighbour, the young trouble-maker and her defensive mother, the policeman, the mistress, to give their sides of the story - one which becomes darker and darker with the slow drip of deaths resulting from the house fire and the slow drip of information isolating suspects. Symbolic blood stains all the characters’ hands from the beginning, a lovely touch which adds to the adds to the tension throughout. Sam Blanchard’s script is strongly performed throughout.
All in all, Passing Through is a good show-case for these promising writers, programmed well to keep individual pieces short, interesting and thematically linked. It is particularly impressive to see the difficult concepts addressed handled so maturely, especially from emerging playwrights.