Dan Sareen (Writer) and Director Imy Wyatt Corner have produced stirling work with Passing, currently in situ at Park 90, Park Theatre, Finsbury Park.  The play is running (and at 2 hours 30 mins) from 1 Nov to 25 with a special Diwali Gala Evening on 11 November.  The Park is an intimate space and any seat in the house, is the best seat. 

Diwali is very much at the forefront of Rachel Singh's (Amy Leigh Hickman) mind. She is celebrating, or rather, attempting to, celebrate the Festival of Lights (no, it's not like Christmas) with her family and partner, Matt. (Jack Flammiger)  Despite being in her late 20s, the biracial family have never celebrated their Asian heritage and it is the decline in Rachel's Grandfather's health that has made her realise that she knows little to nothing about her identity.

Rachel's dad Yash (Bhasker Patel) is Indian, and her mother, Ruth (Catherine Cusak) is Caucasian. The family, although tight-knit and with a solid outward appearance, are for all intents and purposes, of an immigrant man raising his family in a very different world from what he is used to 'poppadums in India are so different from here, not thin, flimsy of greasy'. Rachel's brother, David (Kishore Walker) a recruiter who hitherto had little time to spend with his Grandfather but upon hearing of his ill-health is eager to be with him, who has very little interest in his generational background. Ruth on the other hand, has tried to imbibe herself into Rachel's project, with lists of plenty - every spice known for the Chai Tea, learning the moves to a Bollywood Classic and playing at happy families.

The set is simple, a three-piece sofa, a record rack covering vinyl from The Beatles to Velvet Underground. There is an abundance of sparkly lights and diya's and we see Rachel attempting to learn how to put on a sari complete with pleats, on a YouTube tutorial. Her boyfriend Matt is a golden retriever boyfriend, loyal, caring, and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Rachel is happy.  He quickly learns that it is also about colour, as well as being about culture. That Rachel's long dark hair and lightly tanned skin, the thing he adores, is also the thing that has made her upbringing challenging. She has one foot in India and one foot in the UK. He reminisces fun times at school, she recalls the name-calling 'Singh-in In the Rain' chants.  

Passing holds a lot of value, and brings topical points to the surface. However, it lacks finesse; the stiff British Upper Lip drops quickly over a game of Cluedo, the speaking over each other and the cliche Kingfisher Beer making an appearance detract from a very relevant piece of theatre. Had it been condensed into a shorter running time, the key themes would have been punchier. It feels at present that they are lost in the soundtrack of the family's bickering.

I would have enjoyed a Q&A with Dan and Imy to further deep dive into the background of how this piece came about. With a little polish, this could be sitting in any theatre in the west end.

Review: Kay Johal          Photo: Matt Martin