FringeReview Scotland 2013
Boy meets girl in unusual circumstances, boy is awkward, girl angry. He’s been wrongly booked; she has been stood up. An emotional connection ensues but not much more. We then see boy and girl’s respective partners who appear disrespectful of both until boy meets girl again and the awkward nature of before is replaced by a realisation, in the conventional sense.
Tommy has been booked into the Docker’s as an act. They expect Motorhead and they get a magician. He does not go down well. He ends up in a bar with Alice. Their initial meeting is far from good and despite Tommy’s best efforts at conversation and explanation Alice appears to be disinterested in anything magical happening tonight. Her boyfriend, Richard has stood her up whilst Tommy’s girlfriend and assistant, Alice was late at the gig. We have a lost male soul with an alluring female for company. Some time later they meet awkwardly in a coffee shop where we hear that the assistant is on her final warning but Richard is whisking Alice away for a romantic break. We then meet both Alice and Richard as they try and change our hero and heroine into the people they wish them to be – it fails and Tommy and Alice end up back at the bar where they first met. You may be able to guess the rest.
Here’s the thing. This is a gentle and touching comedy of romance, tribute bands and thrown beer mats. It does not challenge your view of the world order nor does it bring something new to the table in terms of insight into the human condition. It is nice. If you like a night out that can wash over you with a bit of entertainment thrown in – get along to see it.
Both Philip Kingscott (Tommy/Richard) and Kirsty Halliday (Alice/Tracey) can act. The problem that I had here was twofold. Firstly Tommy was so much a geek and the following around at the coffee bar distinctly creepy that I lost faith in the inevitability of him ever getting the girl. It was just the wrong side of subtle for me. His Richard gave him an opportunity to really give us the person we could dislike intently. It worked. Kirsty’s Tracey was bimbo par excellence and quite the little madam, however again I couldn’t work out why she ended up with Tommy. Alice was much more sophisticated and some more performances are needed to just tweak the odd timing issue for her. Now I have many friends – I refuse to identify them – which prove that opposites do attract. I have realised this over many years. We had around 55 minutes to be convinced that these two distinctly different characters would bond.
It leads me onto my second problem. If you are going to be a magician – learn to do the tricks VERY well. Rings were telegraphed and you are so close up I nearly offered to help! The coin in the bottle needs effortless practice, otherwise it looks like you are simply pushing the coin in… I know that he might not be a very good magician but today being a bad magician wouldn’t even get an invite to the Docker’s for a pint.
It was intimately staged in the bar rather than the theatre and this worked very well for them. Having people up to help out the performances is hardly new but they were quite good at it. What might make it all the more brilliant is giving the audience more confidence in the approach. For example, if the suit to be revealed as Richard’s expensive and much loved spacesuit – do it up at the back or use the fact it isn’t as the reason for looking for Alice. If you are going to do all the sound cues yourself learn them and don’t have them taped to the CD player – I know that as an audience we became part of the action but we seemed to be asked to do so by Tommy and Alice rather than Philip and Kirsty. If the quick change means you can’t do up the zip on your boot – don’t wear the boots. These are very minor and picky things but it meant they had to work all the harder for our engagement. Overall in terms of direction it was fine but I would make Tommy less awkward, the mind reading thing doesn’t work for me, and switch some of the tempo – too frenetic at times to give confidence.
Generally within scenes though the pace was spot on, getting people up worked and the intimacy of the venue helped enormously. It is hard not to be charmed by the enthusiasm of both performers and I would love to see this again after it has gone on the tour of England, Switzerland and Italy. This is the type of success that swims underneath the radar because it does not give us sweary, stereotypical ranting and excess in terms of production. That may be its ultimate downfall but is certainly part of its charm.
I left with a warm fuzzy feeling but with the caveats hitherto expressed. As a young company born out of the UWS Degree programme it is fantastic to see such success and it is to be commended. I was at the show with my partner who noticed something that I did not amongst the audience. On the evening we went it was mainly couples in the audience who were holding hands, laughing heartily and thoroughly enjoying their evening. Passing Through has therefore hit their mark highly successfully. There was a lot to like about the production and to admire about this young company’s gusto. That they have already sold a tour internationally is equally to be lauded. What they do need to do though is just work on the product a little and then success will no doubt come to the attention of more than just the few who enjoyed this on behalf of so many.