Tuesday, 2 November 1999

A Passionate Woman, 2 Nov 1999

 by Kay Mellor
at Comedy Theatre from November 2, 1999  for one week only
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

British domestic farce has been very popular in its day and it seems it can still pull a crowd here. Kay Mellor's play, A Passionate Woman, is a clever blend of gags and pathos.

Her script is definitely the star of this Brisbane remount of a British production. Mellor wrote the funny and moving Girls' Night (starring Julie Walters) and is an expert in creating Northern English working -class women and their domestic troubles, humour, dreams and desires.

One hour before her precious only son's wedding, Betty (Linda Robson) removes to the attic to muse on her lost youth. Her husband, Donald, (Geoffrey Hughes) bangs around downstairs while sonny, Mark, (Jason Gann) climbs the ladder to sweet-talk her into coming down.

Mark has some competition, however.  The ghost of Betty's long-dead lover, Craze (Paul Mercurio) is seducing her all over again up in the attic. Mellor uses this as the cornerstone of Betty's menopausal, empty-nest crisis. She is caught between three demanding and self-interested men.

Mellor sets up poignant moments then whips the rug out from under them with a snappy punch-line. The audience seemed relieved not to be taken to deeply into her anguish. "Marriage is not all sex, ovaltine and roses," says Donald. There was an audible sigh of recognition with the giggle from the crowd.

This production is at its best in the second half when director, Dan Crawford allows it to be more physically and visually interesting as they all perch on the rickety tiles roof of the tenement. Act One is uncomfortably static in the confined space of the attic.

This is personality casting at its most obvious and least Australian. Linda Robson has a strong following from the TV comedy, Butterflies Are Free and she is charming as Betty. Hughes, known to us as Onslow in Keeping up Appearances, raises the comic stakes in Act Two with an energetic and funny Donald.  

Gann is more comfortable on the roof after a shaky start but Mercurio is badly miscast as the 60's British Wide Boy.

This is a play in the style of Run for Your Wife that also owes a great deal to Shirley Valentine. It would benefit from direction that finds a more effective balance between pathos and comedy.

by Kate Herbert

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