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A Passionate Woman (Hornchurch, Queen's Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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I suppose that there's a 19-year old still lurking somewhere in every middle-aged man or woman. Kay Mellor's take on this – which it is well-known was inspired by something in her own mother's life – gives the soubriquet of "a passionate woman" to Betty on the morning of her adored son's wedding-day. But "a passionate man" might equally be applied to Betty's apparently dour and down-to-earth husband Donald.

As with all good comedy, there's heartbreak bubbling up through the frothy crust. It's helped along in this case by one of Rodney Ford's ingenious sets as well as by cleverly nuanced performances sympathetically nudged along by Bob Carlton's direction. The nominal star of the show may be Marji Campi as Betty, all powder-pink crimpelene shrouded in a wrap-round overall – and she is very good – but James Earl Adair and Sam Pay as Donald and bridegroom Mark match her.

The cast is completed by Mark Newnham as the young man aptly nicknamed Craze. He's a revenant from Betty's early married years and, like others of his ilk, not entirely benign. There's something unsettling about this play, as with much else of Mellor's work, something which keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wonder what will happen next. And something does. But you'll have to see A Passionate Woman to find out what that is.


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