Based on the real-life events of writer Kay Mellor’s mother, A Passionate Woman was a short, albeit sweet story of love, loss and family. Settling into the theatre, the story opens with Betty, a woman of middle-age sat reminiscing in her attic, chatting to the audience as if old friends. Dreading losing her son forever on his wedding day, Betty seeks the loft as a source of refuge, leading to a nostalgic revelation of her past affair with a Polish neighbour when she was first married. Until now, I never supposed a perfectly ordinary conversation about the new Asda down the road and the old gossip from Number 47 could evoke so much chortling from the audience (even those of us who are thankfully further away from knowing the daily realities of that nosy old busybody from next door), but this was in credit to Kay Mellor’s merit as a writer. A great sense of comedy, relatable yet perfectly ordinary characters, and humble yet equally hilarious dialogue were all to be found in Mellor’s play. Betty’s almost extensive list of the chores, duties and problems she has to undertake was a particularly popular crowd pleaser, with the people in my row almost crippling over in what (hopefully) was pure laughter.
…all passionate women in their capacity to love and nurture in their own right.
But the hysterics that the audience often found them themselves in was also due largely to Liza Goddard’s brilliant portrayal, and her ability to connect with the audience in such a way that created a private, intimate connection between Betty and ourselves; I found myself looking to Betty as a character who, though not my mirror in age – and certainly not in comedic ability – was someone who within I could see my Grandmother, my Mother, all women, who have all given up a part of themselves, a piece of their own identity, to nurture and care for others – all passionate women in their capacity to love and nurture in their own right.
Betty’s relationship with her son, Mark (played with a huge helping of hilarious incredulity by Anthony Eden) was one that was so endearing and charming that a few charmed “Awws” could be heard among the audience when the pair danced with one another. But it was the comedic dynamic between the pair that had the audience chuckling away, as Mark’s disbelief and frustration mounts to the point of hilarity, as his mother refuses to come to his wedding, despite his bride due to arrive at the Church at any moment. Cue a Bridegroom hyperventilating, whilst his mother talks to the dead ghost of her one time lover, Craze. Betty finds herself relieving the passions of her youth, blushing as she remembers the passionate woman she used to be, resulting in an amusingly farcical and frantic dialogue between herself, Craze, and her son, whose only conclusion is that either his mother is mad and has starting talking to herself, or she must really hate his soon-to-be wife.
…Moving, witty and uplifting
Hilarity ensues as Betty seeks to escape not only her son’s upcoming nuptials, but her past, climbing onto the roof as she shouts to Mrs Carol across the road that it’s “better than the telly box isn’t it”, and it certainly was. Having had enough, Betty refuses to come down, resulting in her son dangling down a window whilst her husband shouts unhelpfully from the skylight. The set design by Micheal Holt enabled such frivolity to ensure, with a dynamic set that swung away from the interior attic full of Betty’s secrets to reveal the roof of the house. Here Betty attempts to escape the stifling pressures of motherhood and wifehood, eventually fleeing in a hot air ballon to an adventure of her own; that of a freedom Betty had not known until reminded of her own passion for life. Moving, witty and uplifting, A Passionate Woman left the audience with a tale of life and laughter that anyone, whether young, or old, can rejoice in.