Zoe Wanamaker stars in Peter Nichols’ play about desire
Part of a busy 2013 season for the Duke of York’s Theatre, Passion Play is the latest production to be revived for a new generation of people who fancy shows in London that are comic yet tinged with tragedy and kitchen-sink drama.
James and Eleanor have celebrated their silver wedding anniversary but their world falls apart when James meets up in secret with Kate, a friend who has just lost her husband. As deceit piles up, Peter Nichols’ play posits the idea that desire and passion can rear their heads and ruin supposedly solid relationships.
A key dramatic construct in the play is that both protagonists have voices only they can hear, Jim in James’s case and Nell for Eleanor. Nichols keeps it all together brilliantly in a play that debuted in 1981. At the time, Margaret Thatcher was in charge and making speeches about there being ‘no such thing as society’. The focus on the individual is thus paramount in the play, as Eleanor tries to stay together for the sake of the children. The role is played by the experienced Zoë Wanamaker, who is once again directed by David Leveaux in a partnership which brought international acclaim in a production of Sophocles’ Electra.
Such a collaboration should ensure many fans of hers (she starred in several seasons of the BBC TV show My Family) go along and see the poise, passion and precision with which she delivers her lines. Acting, of course, runs in the Wanamaker blood: Zoe’s father Sam spearheaded the re-opening of the Globe Theatre on the South Bank, and indeed is to give his name to a new theatre on the site.
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