Review: A Passionate Woman @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


It was a delight to attend Leeds-born Writer and Director Kay Mellor’s drama, A Passionate Woman at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Directed by Paul Milton. Her work is known for its edgy northern perspective and the unfolding of this story even more poignant as it is so personal to her. The story is based on her mother.

The scene is set in the memory filled loft of Betty and Donald on the wedding day of their son, Mark, questioning her own validity and place in the world we watch her go through a range of memories, brought to mind because of the things that she has kept hidden away. Liza Goddard plays Betty with a true Northern edge, which made her seem somewhat familiar, like she could be someone we all know, making us warm to her and understand her secret in a different way.

Betty plays an old vinyl, ‘I Love How You Love Me’, that takes her on a trip down memory lane and reminds her of a passionate but brief affair she had over thirty years ago. These memories bring into her reality her dead lover, Craze played by Hasan Dixon. The staging is impressive with the attention being held within the four walls, and later the roof scene yet the stream of memories and interlinked pasts take us beyond the walls in to Leeds. The memories in boxes seemed to represent her yearning for her past life, when she was indeed a passionate woman.

We are introduced to her son, Mark, played by Antony Eden and her husband Donald played by Russell Dixon as they become part of her dance between past and present, duty and self worth. All of the characters come across somewhat emotionless, although this you realise is intentional. Yorkshire folk don’t talk about their feelings they get on with it and make the best of the situation. This personal insight finds its perfect setting in the loft, where secrets are held, and hidden away from the view of those in our lives.

This is a love story but told from different perspectives, from hers and from Donald’s who we learn has known of her secret but chose to live with it. We revel in the roof scene where she looks for her freedom from the life she has come to detest. We empathise for all the characters, for who they were and what they might become. As ever Mellor leaves us with choices to make about the characters and their actions past and present. One thing for certain was that she really had been a passionate woman.