On the day the General Synod voted to allow Church of England priests to bless same-sex civil partnerships, while keeping the church’s doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman, Floating Shed theatre company bring Passion to London’s Lion and Unicorn Theatre.
Written by Tom Dalrymple and Nadav Burstein; religion plays a big part in this coming of age/teen love story. Jude and Joshua are best friends, and have been for years, but we find out pretty quickly that the relationship has moved on, “we’re just mates,” protests Jude, “mates that occasionally suck each other’s cocks?” retorts Joshua.
There’s more to this than meets the eye, all of which is revealed in a fairly big twist towards the end, but for the bulk of the play we see this relationship unfold. Joshua comfortable in his sexuality, Jude desperately tormented, trying to deny his feelings at every turn. Between these moments of young love, we see Jude at a later point in time, being subjected to conversion therapy on the insistence of his father, his Catholic upbringing again shaping the way he thinks he should feel as a result of his heteronormative upbringing.
What Dalrymple and Burstein’s writing does particularly well is slowly build up the development of the relationship, while keeping Jude and Josh as complete opposites of each other. The events leading to Jude’s conversion therapy layer into each other so that even in a sixty minute running time, nothing feels rushed.
The pair also star in Passion and the chemistry between them really helps to cement the storytelling. The relationship, and even the friendship between Jude and Joshua feels more than believable, and you’re rooting for it to succeed. The production employs good use of physical theatre, particularly in the first few scenes, where it’s used as it’s own form of storytelling.
It falls to Burstein to handle the heavier themes of the play; the conversion therapy scenes can be harrowing at times, as can the moments where Jude violently tries to reject his own sexuality. It’s carried off beautifully; the anger, fear, and confusion etched in Burstein’s face, and amplified in the carefully choreographed physical movements.
Dalrymple and Burstein clearly have faith in their work, and it’s not undeserved. Passion is an intelligent piece of theatre that takes its audience on an extraordinary journey in a relatively short space of time.
Passion is at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 11th February 2023.