Football and homophobia drama The Pass - reviews

Jan 22, 2014

John Donnelly's new play about homophobia in football is witty, gripping and perfectly timed

What you need to know

Critics are calling John Donnelly's new comedy drama about homophobia in football The Pass, at the Royal Court Theatre, "topical" and "gripping". Donnelly is best known for his 2011 play about failing schools, The Knowledge.

Set in three hotel rooms over 12 years, The Pass follows the career of Jason, a rising football star who conceals his sexuality to ensure his success, but gradually discovers the cost of living a lie. Russell Tovey (Being Human) stars as Jason. Royal Court, London until 1 March.

What the critics like

Coming soon after former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger became the first former Premier League player to come out, Donnelly's play has "timed perfectly its approach on goal", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Yet Donnelly's witty, abrasive dialogue and psychological acuity mean that The Pass would be a winner at any time.

Donnelly's topical new play is "acerbically witty and horribly gripping", says Paul Taylor in The Independent. It's a chilling morality play about a man damned as both victim and devious exploiter of the secrecy culture.

But The Pass is not a one-issue play, and also "depicts, with wit and spark, the bizarre dislocation between celebrity lifestyle and normality", says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. It is a Faustian tale with a personal tragedy at its heart and a magnificent, volatile performance from Tovey.

What they don't like

This is a play of sharp wit and visceral power, but also contradictory attitudes, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. The character of Jason begins as a victim and ends as an arrogant, power-drunk, modern superstar and, at the end the play, seems to "lapse into moralising censoriousness".

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