Passion -Donmar Warehouse

“The boredom here is such it will make a gambler of you yet.”

So speaks one of the characters in Passion, a minor Sondheim currently being performed at the Domar Warehouse. About 20 minutes in I was about ready to kick off a game of strip poker with my fellow theatre goers-anything to alleviate the boredom.

Passion stars David Thaxton as Giorgio a soldier transferred from Milan where he had been living a comfortable life with adulteress Clara (a luminescent Scarlett Strallen) to a new posting where he becomes the object of desire for the dangerously obsessed and frail and “ugly” Fosca (Elena Roger of Evita and Piaf fame). Fosca is a completely deranged stalker who makes the likes of Annie Wilkes in Misery look like an amateur. She uses her illness and her family connection to Giorgio’s superior to emotionally manipulate Giorgio and blackmail him into doing her bidding. The characters are all profoundly unsympathetic while the female characters especially are particularly wretched. Clara the happy adulteress is little more than a cipher,Giorgio is spectacularly wet and Fosca so barking mad that it is impossible to care about her plight.

All concerned do the best they can with their flimsy parts. Elena Roger suffers for her art draped in hideous smock dresses and swathed liberally in pale make up with heavy black shading to make her cheeks look hollow and her eyes sunken. Despite being saddled with such a pitiful character she sings beautifully and does her utmost to try to make you feel sympathetic to Fosca. Scarlett Strallen looks beautiful and trails star dust in her wake although arguably her performance contained little nuance-we saw nothing of the pain that living such a complicated dual life would have wrought on Clara. Thaxton is very handsome and has a strong voice but can’t overcome the fact that his character is so profoundly wet. The company provides strong support particularly Simon Bailey who is magnetic as Count Ludovic.

At an hour and 45 minutes with no interval the play is rather a slog to get through. The ending when it finally came felt less like an emotional resolution and more like Stockholm Syndrome. The message of Sondheim’s play seems to be that if you aren’t a supermodel you will live a sickly and wretched lonely life but if you stalk some wet lettuce of a bloke for long enough he may just fall hopelessly in love with you. It’s enough to make a feminist weep.

Rating: 2/5

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One Response to Passion -Donmar Warehouse

  1. Maria says:

    The play is set in 19th century Italy when the message of “You either are a daughter or a wife” certainly was true. So this is what Sondheim is presenting, I don’t see anything wrong with making it the topic and to expect from the audiences to think about it. And this is what turns Fosca into who she becomes, so there is a moral right there. And of course Sondheim is not saying “this is the way it’s supposed to go” and “this is what is right”. It’s Giorgio’s completely warped perception, due to Fosca’s influence.
    You’re definitely right to call the ending vey much a Stockholm Syndrome ending, and that is the tragedy which I believe is presented very well. It can’t be anything else, it needs to come across, and the fact that it does is very much down to the acting, so I’d compliment Thaxton and Roger on that for a start. There have been other interpretations of other productions, even people claiming that, finally, at the end, Giorgio is enlightened and a better person thanks to Fosca, and I think we both agree that this is not what is happening here, is it?
    While many love ‘Passion’ and this production, there is often the criticism that people find it dull, etc. so I won’t argue with that. Personally, I loved it, I want to see it again, I got more out of it than “Stalk him to make him love you” message that you’ve pinpointed, so I’m sorry. I did care about the characters, I thought Thaxton’s performance (especially the strong voice) actually made Giorgio less of a weakling – after all this is a character who can’t say No, who always notoriously seems to try to please everyone until the end when Fosca is the only thing he has to hold on to – but still showed the desperate dilemma he is in, Roger impressed me, and although I thought her Fosca was a bit too animated, almost frisky, I think she found a good balance to make the audience care for her and yet despise her, and I found Clara’s last moment with Giorgio – the last letter – heartbreaking, and Scarlett Strallen was a strong part of that, although I think I know what you mean about her pain not coming through…
    Of course I won’t be able to convince you all of a sudden that you really did like it, but as there was an option for comments, I thought I might as well use it.
    Thank you for the review, anyway.

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