The Passion Play Review

by Birmingham & District Theatre Guild

Highbury Players

The Passion Play – April 2022
By Peter Nichols

Directed By Colin Judges

In many ways, Peter Nichols has written a work that is very conventional, depicting the kind of events that are more usually seen in a farce than a bittersweet comedy that borders on tragedy.

The starting point is a visit by vibrant but amoral Kate, a free spirit seductively played by Dominika Nala to the home of James and Eleanor.

So strong is the marriage of 25 years that choral singer Eleanor cannot imagine that her husband, a restorer of Old Masters played by would notice even a beautiful young thing like Kate.

Indeed, at first, she literally laughs at the suggestions by Alison Cahill playing bitter Agnes that hubby might have had his head turned.  Agnes should know, having watched her own recently deceased husband decamp to Kate’s loving arms five years before, only returning in a coffin.

Rather than viewing the marital disintegration and bitter insecurities of both partners through the fourth wall without assistance, the author puts on stage two more non-characters to open spectators’ eyes.

In addition to Eleanor and James, we also meet Nell and Jim respectively played by Paula Snow and Phil Nooney. Rather than separate characters, they are the alter egos of their almost namesakes.

In this way, while audience members listen to the platitudes that are inevitably exchanged between the various combinations of characters, we also get a racy commentary delivered from inside the heads of the two co-protagonists.

As a result,  we learn much about this couple that would never have become apparent through their own polite middle-class mouths.

The set was of a high standard, with an able stage team transporting us to different location throughout the play, from a cafe, to an art gallery, to living room.  Careful consideration should be made regarding the position of the large chair down stage left. Unfortunately it did leave the audience with a view of the back of the actors head, which in turn also blocked any cast member sitting on the sofa. Lighting and sound were slick and maintained the momentum of the play, with good background noise where necessary. Costumes were carefully considered, with Kates turning heads as required.

The acting was good throughout this performance, with each cast member establishing their character from the opening scene.   Eleanor has the hardest journey as a poignant character, demolished because she believed James and Kate were trustworthy.  This beautifully and skilfully portrayed by Maggie Lane.  Robert Hicks embroiders the ungrateful role of James, who reveals an icy and hypocritical nature.  The passion of the play must hinge on Dominika Nala  portrail of Kate whose motive can never be guessed.  This she does with a sparkling performance of charm and wit.  The supporting cast of alter egos are handled well by Phil Nooney and Paula Snow. Eleanors bitter and vindictive friend Agnes is sensitively portrait by Alison Cahill.

The director should be commended for handling this complex play, with multiple of locations, extras and emotions. It is an adult play comprising what some members of the audience might consider uncomfortable truths.