A Passionate Woman – Review – West Yorkshire Playhouse
A Passionate Woman – Review
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
by Sandra Callard
Actress, script-writer and director, Leeds-born Kay Mellor, brings her drama, A Passionate Woman, to the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Mellor’s work has northern grit and reality stamped all over it, and audiences watch themselves as her stories unfold.
A Passionate Woman is set in the attic of a home in Leeds. Attics are invariably filled with memories, and Betty, evocatively played by Liza Goddard, is going to her son’s wedding when she comes to the attic and finds relics of her past. Her marriage is disappointing but inexplicably enduring, and her son’s impending marriage triggers memories of a brief but loving affair some thirty years ago. Her memories take on a new reality, as her bygone dead lover materialises and she lives again the music and the feelings of long ago.
“Cleverly done and very effective”
Betty’s long-dead lover, Craze, is played with 1970’s careless aplomb by Hasan Dixon. His long hair and clothing indicative of the era, as one of the hit songs of the time, ‘I Love How You Love Me’ plays on the old record player.
Her son, Mark, nicely played by Antony Eden with a puzzled and affectionate concern for his mother, follows her to the attic, and becomes increasingly worried that his wedding plans will unravel as she talks of the past and the sterility of her own marriage.
The attic setting is atmospheric, and is the perfect place to release the avalanche of memories that engulf Betty. Goddard plays her in an odd, emotionless way, and delivers her lines in a rapid, almost staccato fashion. She fires her words to her son and her dead lover, in a brisk and almost dead-pan way. But it is soon evident that this is a way of controlling her emotions. It is cleverly done and very effective.
“A master of conveying normal life in a moving and insightful way”
Her husband, Donald, played with a shatteringly uncaring attitude by Russell Dixon, gives us a further understanding of Betty’s feelings, and how she has come to this moment in her life. The play has some surprisingly humorous moments, and the use of pathos, tragedy and comedy is skillful and links up unexpectedly.
The stage design is brilliant by Michael Holt, as the attic gives up its secrets. I love the roof top scene, which seems so familiar and authentic.
This is a story of love, loss and reality. A cameo of ordinary lives and extraordinary secrets, and how people live and cope with it, when they are buried deep and when they are exposed. Mellor is a master of conveying normal life in a moving and insightful way. Her audience identifies with the story, or the emotions, or the situations of the actors, in a very real way. Betty is no longer ‘A Passionate Woman’, but we are left in no doubt that she once was, and mourn its loss with her.
Images: Antony Thompson