Pass Over Is Not To Be Passed Up

Pass Over, The Kiln ★★★★☆

By James FitzGerald Last edited 53 months ago

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Last Updated 20 February 2020

Pass Over Is Not To Be Passed Up Pass Over, The Kiln 4
Photo: Marc Brenner

Although the play might be already familiar to some Amazon streamers thanks to Spike's Lee's 2018 filmed version, Pass Over is a spectacle that begs to be watched not on a screen but in person, and up close. This tense and compelling look at racism and police brutality in modern America gets its UK stage preview in-the-round at the Kiln Theatre.

Antoinette Nwandu channels Samuel Beckett through two characters — young black men — encountered on a street corner waiting for something you suspect will never happen. Their dream is to leave the block. Kitch (Gershwyn Eustache Jnr) looks to Moses (Paapa Essiedu) to lead him to a promised land — but white cop Ossifer (Alexander Eliot) is always on hand to violently suppress them.

While the play functions as a valuable polemic in the wake of numerous shootings of unarmed black men in the US, it is not really through Ossifer that Nwandu best leans into race politics. In the more complex figure of Master (also played by Eliot) she sharply lampoons the 'white saviour' trope and all his casual racism. Overflowing with creepy energy, Master — his very name setting the men on edge — arrives and unfurls a picnic for the hungry pair, and with it some toe-curling faux pas.

Indhu Rubasingham directs a show that's grimly unsettling at almost every turn, yet intermittently joyful as the Moses-Kitch friendship is fleshed out. Whether play-fighting or sharing elaborate handshakes, their antics are never-ending, but so too are their aspirations. As they dream of better lives, they interestingly develop their linguistic bond by pledging to ditch the N-word — which, they figure, gets black men shot. Ultimately it's all about Essiedu and Eustache Jnr's poignant double-act.

Pass Over, Kiln Theatre, Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR, from £15. Until 21 March