REVIEW: Passion Play at the Theatre Royal Brighton

Passion Play was written by Peter Nichols. Photo credit: Johan Persson.
Passion Play was written by Peter Nichols. Photo credit: Johan Persson.

TAKING a long hard look at extra-marital affairs, Passion Play provides a perhaps worryingly accurate portrayal of what happens when a husband is unfaithful.

On at the Theatre Royal Brighton, I was there for the first of the play’s five-night run at the venue.

At times uncomfortable to watch, but always utterly enthralling, author Peter Nichols’ black comedy takes unusual approach.

Zoe Wannamaker plays Eleanor, a chorister who has been married to art restorer James (Owen Teale) for 25 years.

On the surface they have a happy marriage, but then along comes Kate (Annabel Scholey) – the recent widow of James’ best friend.

The play explores the dynamics of what happens to a relationship when one party cheats by employing the use of alter egos.

It means Eleanor’s increasing paranoia can be explored to the full, with not an if or but left unexplored, while the audience, too, gets to see the internal struggles experienced by James as his affair gets ever more out of control.

Samantha Bond plays Nell, Eleanor’s alter ego, giving a strong and heartfelt performance.

Jim, who is James’ alter ego, is played by Oliver Cotton. He provides the odd comic turn but also conveys the gravity of the situation.

Wannamaker is great as Eleanor, switching from the comic to the dramatic with ease.

Meanwhile Teale, rather than have us hate James, manages to squeeze an ounce of sympathy out of a character who seems to have got himself into a situation where he is woefully out of his depth.

Directed by David Leveaux, it is easy to see how the show is being billed as a modern day classic. It’s one not to miss!

n To book tickets for Passion Play, which is on until Saturday, April 27, call 0844 871 7650 or visit www.atgtickets.com/brighton