Writer: Kay Mellor
Director: Paul Milton
Reviewer: Kelyn Luther
A Passionate Woman has all the subtlety of a weak, early 90s sitcom, which is unsurprising considering that it was written in 1992 by Kay Mellor, better known for Fat Friends. While this production is not exemplary, it is hard to think of how the play could be saved.
On the day of her son Mark’s (Anthony Eden) wedding, Betty (Liza Goddard) is hiding in the attic from him and Donald (Russell Dixon), the husband she has grown tired of. As she sits there reminiscing on past times, the ghost of a former lover, Craze (Hasan Dixon) appears.
It is hard to make the rambling humour of an ageing woman funny and fresh so Mellor goes for gentle reliable jokes such as Betty being surprised by all the funny cheeses in Asda. Goddard’s performance is not engaging enough to generate laughs, a problem that Russell Dixon and Anthony Eden share, so any enjoyment depends on the audience’s recognition of the jokes.
The lacklustre performances suggest that even the actors struggle to find humour or any substance in their roles. Craze is the only interesting character and Hasan Dixon gives the strongest performance, managing to bring some pathos to his role.
Mellor wrote the play as a fictionalised version of her mother’s affair, but there is no sense of her personal connection to the material. If anything, the personal elements are intentionally buried under cliché, which doesn’t make the play entertaining as either comedy or romance.
Michael Holt’s set works well, particularly the rooftop for the slapstick comedy in Act 2. while Act 1 mainly resembles theatre, Act 2 is straight TV sitcom. It is a bit misleading to have two acts when the play itself is only 75 minutes long, although as Mellor struggles to engage the audience for 30 minutes, it is lucky that this wasn’t a one-act play.
The play is firmly aimed at an older audience, with nothing of interest to anyone outside of that target market. Even by the standards of a standalone ITV drama- which seems like its natural home – it is weak.
Runs until 25 March 2017 then continues to tour | Image: Contributed