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Passion Play review from 2000

The story concerns Eleanor and James, married for 25 years and still in love. However, when James is seduced by a younger woman the trust between them breaks down and exposes them to an uncertain future. Can Eleanor forgive? Can James resist the temptations of continuing the affair? Is their love as strong has they had thought?

The first act is absorbing, witty and thoroughly entertaining. The pace is fast, quickly developing the characters and the story to a breathtaking climax. However, after the interval the story fails to progress and thus becomes a little tedious as Eleanor becomes paranoid about her husband's infidelity. Don't get me wrong, it is not a poor second act, it is just that compared with the excellent first act you feel cheated by the second. I think possibly that the play, which lasts 2 hours 15 minutes, may have worked better if the second act was cut down and the drama was played without an interval. What is clever by the author is having Eleanor & James's alter-egos also on stage. This is what helped give the play pace as you are able to witness the altercation between Eleanor & James as well as hear what they are thinking at the same time.

What is interesting about this play is that it is 'almost' saying that monogamous relationships do not, or cannot exist. The longer a relationship lasts it is only a matter of time before one of the partners give in to the many temptations, particularly when reaching middle-aged.

"Passion Play" boasts an outstanding cast. Cherie Lunghi as 'Eleanor' and James Laurenson as 'James' perform reliably, so does Cheryl Campbell and Martin Jarvis as their alter-egos. There is also fine performances from Nicola Walker, playing the sexy seductress 'Kate', and Gillian Barge as the revenging 'Agnes'.

This production has received favourable reviews from most of the popular press....THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says , "Michael Grandage's fine production leaves little doubt that this bitterly funny, savagely honest play about adultery is a modern classic." THE TIMES says, ""To call Peter Nichols a theatrical giant would be pushing it and stretching him, but Michael Grandage's rivetingly acted revival of his 'Passion Play' makes me angry that he has not had the recognition he deserves." THE EXPRESS says, "Compulsive viewing for those for whom suspicion is a way of life. For those still in love, I'm really not sure you need this." THE INDEPENDANT says, "First-rate cast." TIME OUT says, "...Michael Grandage directs the remarkable, oscillating interplay between the four with immense grace and wit.." However, THE STAGE was luke-warm about the production saying it is a "play without the passion" and saying it "suffers from an update".

In all a good production well worth seeing even though the second act was tepid instead of hot!!

(Darren Dalglish)

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