Scottish rom-com has a sense of fun that never fully translates into drama
If any more proof were needed that the Scottish rom-com has become a fully-fledged theatrical genre, Passing Through is it. Alistair Rutherford’s play weaves through Glasgow much as the production has travelled across Scotland over the last year, throwing two lost souls together as it comes back to Edinburgh for a second crack at romance. Sadly, though, it doesn’t seem to have gathered much warmth on the road.
Fuming Alice tumbles into the nearest bar after having been stood up by her car-obsessed boyfriend on a rainy night. Tommy, a wannabe stage magician, winds up in the same bar, bruised and bitter after his act – The Ace of Spades – was mistaken for a Motörhead tribute band and booked by accident. As they meet and chat, it becomes clear that they both hate their partners and their lives, but they’re not in much of a hurry to get together with each other, either.
As we join them in their meandering course towards each other, we do get to indulge in a bit of audience participation. In fact, the fourth wall is non-existent. There’s plenty of fun to be had in chucking beer mats at the cast and growling at opportune moments, and at one point my long-suffering boyfriend was recruited to play a saloon door.
But this sense of fun never fully translates into drama. The trailblazers of the Scottish rom-com, David Grieg’s Midsummer and DC Jackson’s My Romantic History, worked by blending theatre with comic storytelling thrown directly out to the audience, and both went in for some subtle character exploration.
We don’t see any of this in Passing Through. The audience is involved physically but not emotionally; because both members of the cast act at full blast from the off and remain almost constantly furious and unreasonable, there’s not much shading in the shouty performances. There’s little room for us to develop a relationship with the characters, let alone for them to get under each other’s skin.
Director Andy Corelli, for Edinburgh-based Peapod Productions, has a fair go at creating a lively and interactive performance, but it doesn’t have the heart that you find in Greig or Jackson’s romances. For any rom-com to work, you have to believe that the characters deserve to be together. In this show, what they both need is a cup of tea and a sit down.
Passing Through is at the Howden Park Centre, Howden, Livingston, Sat 7 Jul. Seen at South Leith Parish Church Halls, Thu 5 Jul.