“Everything could change or nothing could change,” says Jake (Ethan Rodgers) in Pass, the new play from writer Naomi Sumner that is debuting at this year’s 24:7. That single sentence is a great summation of the teenage experience: life is exciting, fresh and fun while, at the same time, it all seems so hard to grasp, slow to move and no one thinks you’re ready for it. It is this universal story of juvenile yearning that Pass follows, told through the tale of two school kids in love.
The premise is pretty simple: Jake wants to go to university and get out of Manchester while his girlfriend Maddie (Natasha Davidson) is quite happy where she is, glad to be young and in love. Caught in this clash is newly qualified teacher Louise (Joanna Hinton), a tutor to Jake and a potential rival for his affections as far as Maddie is concerned. The three strong wills go to war, with inevitable break-ups, make-ups, and break downs as Jake takes his final exams. The question is, will he pass?
Pass’ storyline works well and the dialogue has strong moments, as with the quoted line at the start of this review. However, the quality is not consistent throughout and is occasionally clunky rather than quick and charismatic; a drama like this needs a real feel for how young people speak and a sense of their energy. That said, both Rodgers and Davidson did well with the material and made believable teens, which is not an easy assignment for an actor.
As to the direction, the pacey scene changes gave a feeling of life flashing by, but the sudden snaps of sound used to punctuate these didn’t quite work, preventing a mood from developing; it was hard to get lost in the play. It was also a tricky piece to see in thrust staging, as several key moments happened at the far reaches of the stage where they could not be seen so well from the other side.
Pass succeeds in capturing that feeling that fifteen is everything, that there is no time to lose and you’ve got to have it all right now – an impatience for life to begin. While it has some weaknesses there is also enough to suggest that this play can be improved, and that those involved have potential.
Words: Andrew Anderson
Image: Courtesy of 24:7