Passion Play


Year : 2000

Theatres :
Donmar Warehouse 13 April to 10 June 2000
Comedy Theatre to 9 September 2000

Playwright : Peter Nichols

Cast :
Cheryl Campbell | Cherie Lunghi | Martin Jarvis | James Laurenson | Nicola Walker | Gillian Barge


From The Stage Archives

While admirably rendered, Peter Nichols’ middle-brow take on middle-class adultery is hardly daring.

This is the play, first performed in 1982, in which the happy-enough marriage of 25 years between an atheist picture restorer James (James Laurenson) and classical singer Eleanor (Cherie Lunghi) is turned over by hubby’s affair with his wife’s best friend (Nicola Walker’s man-eater Kate). It is also the one where the couple’s alter egos appear in character, voicing inner thoughts and engaging in a dialogue of their own.

It is quite clever, but suffers from an update. I would also hope for a more alluringly realized subconscious ‘other’ than James is dealt – the pot-bellied, oddly sexless Martin Jarvis, whose shrill, sexually infantile persona ‘Jim’ really grates.

But Cheryl Campbell offers a compellingly fiery counterpoint to the stoically sad Lunghi. desperate in her role as the deceived “bourgeois wife”. The technique also shows that when you lie in love you become your own best friend and confidante, while the dialogue between the two inner selves points to at least some subliminal connection after so long together.

Gillian Barge’s Agnes, Eleanor’s reined and another wife to lose her spouse to Kate, also stands out, not least because her sardonic-to-the-point-of-Lady-Bracknell apercus offers much needed relief in a fairly humorless piece, rather too full of its own self-importance. But how she is able for so long to gain access to Kate’s flat (and so inform Eleanor of James’ affair) is one plot device too far.

Perhaps, though the real hero is the music, especially the Mozart with its awesome Dies Irae and ironically pointed references to God’s assurances to humanity. but promises mean nothing in a world where James’ trivial and crass secularism hold sway. The title, too, is sacred, but here love is about stopping the male predilection for nymphets and accepting your lot. As for spiritual passion? Forget it.

Curtain Up | Albermarle London has a round up of reviews from various sources | London Theatre Archives

Six degrees

James Laurenson, has also appeared with Nicola in Killing Her [Stage] and Neuromancer [Radio]. He also guested in episode 306 as Lord Young in Spooks [TV] and came back as Sholto in various episodes o Series 6 of Spooks [TV].