Cast: Zoë Wanamaker, Owen Teale, Samatha Bond, Oliver Cotton, Sian Thomas, Annabel Scholey, Kelly Burke, Matt Weyland
Panellists for debate: Suzy Greaves, Lucy Kellaway, Ruth Sutherland, Emma Wall, Lucy Mangan, Lucy Cavendish and Professor Cary Cooper CBE.
Synopsis: Comfortably married for 25 years, Eleanor’s world is turned upside down when her husband begins an affair with their young friend Kate. As the lies mount Tup, the marriage is stripped bare, revealing illicit desires and hidden passions.
Peter Nichols’ provocative comedy about sex, life and infidelity is brought to life by a vivacious cast in David Leveaux’s revival of the 1981 modern classic. The intimate setting of the Duke of York’s theatre is the perfect location for this revealing look at the consequences and ensuing costs of the harsh reality that you are no longer enough for your partner.
The scene is set as we learn Eleanor (Zoe Wanamaker) and James (Owen Teale) often entertain their young friend Kate; a relationship that doesn’t stay innocent for long as Kate (Annabel Scholey) makes a bold play for James that results in the start of the affair. During an intriguing pre-show debate entitled ‘Is adultery ever justified?’ it was questioned whether Kate’s character was more at fault than James’ for making the move on a married man. Can anyone be described as passive in the act of committing adultery? Certainly the dominance in these early scenes was clear but it is James’ who you feel a sense of disgust at for reneging on the commitment he made to his wife all those years ago and every day since.
We don’t find out too much about the motives underlying why Kate, played coolly by Scholey, targets married men (James is not the first), nor the implications of her promiscuity on her own self worth but this is not at a detriment to the play. In fact it allows the focus to remain solely on the relationship at the centre of the story and the fractures in it which the infidelity cracks wide open.
The play comes into its own with the addition of the couple’s inner conscious’s as characters on stage; allowing the audience to contrast the stark difference between the inner dialogue going on and the actual communication the couple are having. Another topic up for discussion in the pre show debate was the superficial nature of the conversations between husband and wife; should James have made more of an effort to invest in his marriage and look beyond the present to why he committed adultery in the first place? Should those conversations come earlier to prevent an outcome of this nature?
Zoe Wanamaker is deeply moving as a women whose world is falling down around her but is desperate to keep her emotions under wraps. Her alter ego, played by Samantha Bond, is the one who is allowed to do the breaking down and she delivers a sincerely tragic reaction to each new revelation, highlighting the agony of the true betrayal of infidelity.
‘Passion Play’ is a sharp, candid and energetic play that plunges towards a truthful, if not fairytale, conclusion.
A terrific pre-show debate asked ‘is adultery ever justifiable’ and whilst a black and white answer was not quite reached there were intriguing discussions surrounding the grey! ‘Passion Play’ is running for a strictly limited season at the Duke of York’s Theatre until August 3rd and you can head on over on a Monday for tickets from as little as £10.