book by James Lapine music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Donmar Warehouse Earlham Street WC2H 9LX To 27 November 2010.
Mon–Sat 7:30pm. Mat Wed and Sat 230pm.
Audio-described 13 Nov 2.30pm (+Touch Tour 1.30pm).
BSL Signed 8 Nov.
Captioned 26 Oct.
Runs 1hr 45min. No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7624.
Review: Geoff Ambler 25 September.
Sondheim and Lapine misfire at the end.
I love Sondheim’s work (except Assassins). All of it (except Assassins). Without exception (except for Assassins). And now, it seems, I will add Passion to the list, with Assassins.
The Donmar Warehouse, a theatre always displaying the highest production values, ensuring sell-out shows necessitating Friends membership or 7am queues for tickets, is taking part in the 2010 celebration of Sondheim’s 80th birthday. I’ve been to a few of these so far and there are more to come. And a book. The Donmar’s Sondheim, chosen from an extensive portfolio of magnificent shows, is Passion, which unfortunately lackes the one thing Sondheim always inspires in me (except for Assassins): passion.
The Donmar couldn’t have drawn together a more capable team. Performances are flawless, voices absolutely beguiling. Elena Roger channels ugly under a bad wig, switching from scowling hag to beautiful child when she smiles; Playing the needy, petulant, obsessive Fosca, Roger assaults Giorgio’s (David Thaxton) relationship with Scarlett Strallen’s married Clara. It is a truly great musical, right until the end.
My personal passion is the musical and my theatre and life is wondrously filled with them. So I am skilled in suspending my disbelief. Passion, however, suffers from a book that defies even this. A twist late in the single act lacks reason. Does it matter if the motivation for this isn’t believable? It did to me. Maybe I was too enamoured by the lithe, too loosely-corseted Strallen, all wanton excesses, and post-coitus mussy hair, glowing and in love, passionately so. The characters correspond continually when apart, great reams of poetic love and when together, lay in a bed, more passion, all lust, definitely in love – which they sing about, at great length.
“I would die for you … Would Clara … ? ” Fosca declares, the ultimate self sacrifice. But does it mean the same if proclaimed, passionately or otherwise, by someone with only days to live? Clara has a child she loves; does Giorgio expect her to abandon everything, just for his impatient whim? If Passion without this wouldn’t be a story, then maybe not every story needs retelling.
Clara: Scarlett Strallen.
Giorgio: David Thraxton.
Colonel Ricci: David Birrel.l
Lieutenant Torasso/Ludovic: Simon Bailey.
Doctor Tambourri: Allan Corduner.
Sergeant Lombardi/Mistress: Haydn Oakley.
Lieutenant Barri/Fosca’s Mother: Ross Dawes.
Major Rizzoli/Fosca’s Father: Tim Morgan.
Private Augenti: Iwan Lewis.
Fosca: Elena Roger.
Director: Jamie Lloyd.
Designer: Christopher Oram.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Orchestrator: Jonathan Tunick.
Musical Director: Alan Williams.
Choreographer: Scott Ambler.