Review: A Passionate Woman, Lyceum, Sheffield

Liza Goddard as Betty
Liza Goddard as Betty

As soon as you see Kay Mellor’s name on the writing credit you know you are in for some gritty Yorkshire realism.

And so it turns out in this tragi-comedy, which tells the story of a woman who reluctantly sacrifices love for duty.

And it oozes authenticity not least because it is loosely based on the true story of her mother, whose unfulfilled dream haunts her.

She dotes on her son Mark and tries to assuage her grief when he leaves home by escaping to her attic. Surrounded by the detritus of a life, and memories of a long lost romance, she conjures up the lover as the story of her wasted life unravels.

Liza Goddard captures the hapless Betty with an assured performance as she breaks the fourth wall to develop a warm rapport with the audience.

The play (this touring production originated in Cheltenham) also captures the lost love of her stereotypical unemotional husband Donald, ‘a pompous arse’

who laments his wife was ‘too much of a mother and not enough of a wife.’

Russell Dixon’s performance takes the play to a comic level before demonstrating that he too has wasted his life but nevertheless lives in hope.

Some of the theatrical devices may strain credulity at times but this is a story which engages its audience (many of them women of a certain age) who audibly react when they empathise with recognisable family relationships.

Bet that didn’t happen in Cheltenham.