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Passion Play (2013)


Passion Play, written by Peter Nichols, is a black comedy.  The production is co-produced by Tali Pelman Productions, Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, and Old Vic Productions.  It was performed from 12 April - 3 August 2013 at these theatres:

Richmond Theatre, Surrey
12-20 April

Theatre Royal Brighton
23-27 April

Duke of York's Theatre, London
1 May - 3 August (press night: 7 May)

Special events
There was a free debate, hosted by journalists and relationship experts, before the performance on 5 June.  There was a Q&A with cast members after the performance on 4 June (hosted by The Times), and also one on 11 June (hosted by Whatsonstage.com).

Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Photo by John Swannell


In the darkly comic Passion Play, Zoë stars as Eleanor, a chorister whose marriage disintegrates when her husband James embarks on an affair with someone she had considered as a friend and confidante.  The consequences will lead Eleanor to question every aspect of her life.

James, a leading restorer of paintings, agrees to a clandestine meeting with the couple's sultry young friend Kate, the widow of a former colleague.  An affluent photographer, Kate ostensibly needs James' professional input for a book she plans to write; but her real motive for meeting Eleanor's husband is to convince him to take her as his lover.

James needs little convincing, and slowly the lies mount up.  The revelation that her husband of twenty-five years is being unfaithful comes as a tremendous shock to Eleanor, who feels compelled to reveal secrets of her own.  With the marriage at crisis point, both she and James develop alter-egos - Nell and Jim - who give voice to the troubled spouses' innermost thoughts.

The trailer offers more insights into the tensions at the heart of the play.

You can see rehearsal photos and production photos (all by Johan Persson) of Zoe and her colleagues on Passion Play's official Facebook Page.  In addition, photographer Geraint Lewis has further production photos.


Zoë Wanamaker ... Eleanor

Owen Teale ... James

Samantha Bond ... Nell (Eleanor's alter-ego)

Oliver Cotton ... Jim (James' alter-ego)

Annabel Scholey ... Kate

Sian Thomas ... Agnes


Director: David Leveaux
Producer: Tali Pelman
Set Designer: Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting Designer: Mark Henderson
Sound Designer: Fergus O'Hare
Costume Designer: Laura Hopkins


When this production of Passion Play was announced by the Daily Mail, in October 2012, the play's producer, Tali Pelman, described Zoë as a 'funny, sensual, and exciting' addition to the cast.

Passion Play sees Zoë working again with director David Leveaux, who previously directed her in the extraordinarily successful production of Electra.  The Greek tragedy was performed both in the UK and on Broadway between 1997 and 1999.

Passion Play's press night was held at the Duke of York's Theatre on 7 May, attended by special guests including Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Mangan, Twiggy, and Jenny Eclair.  The show was followed by a party at The National Café.  Zoë, other cast members, and some well-known audience members share their thoughts about the production in this press night video:

Photographer Dan Wooller has a large number of photos from the press night, both on-stage and off.  Passion Play's official Facebook Page has photos of the cast and guests at the after party, taken by Paul Clapp.  Getty Images also has after party photos.

Press coverage

Passion Play has achieved an extraordinary amount of press coverage (perhaps more than for any other play Zoë has worked on).

The announcement that Zoe would star in Passion Play was covered extensively in the media, with articles appearing in the Daily Mail, The Stage, Variety, Whatsonstage.com, Playbill, Broadway.com, Broadway World, and TheaterMania.

When the full cast was announced, in early March, the media was similarly enthusiastic (please see Broadway World, Daily Mail, Official London Theatre, Broadway.com, PlaybillWhatsonstage.comLondon TheatreWest End Frame,  and Arts Preview).

The show is among the Telegraph's cultural highlights for May.  It has also been included in Bloomberg's London arts and leisure recommendations.

Zoë and Peter Nichols on Today, BBC Radio 4

Samantha Bond in Richmond & Barnes Magazines

Zoë and Samantha Bond in the Evening Standard

Zoe in Saga Magazine

David Leveaux in The Argus

Zoe and Samantha Bond on the Andrew Marr Show

Zoë in the Independent

Zoe on Front Row, BBC Radio 4

Zoë in the Telegraph

Zoe in The Lady

Zoë in the Observer

Owen Teale on Wales Online

The production received a warm response from critics during its tour of Richmond and Brighton, before opening to excellent reviews in London's West End.  Highlights are below.

Telegraph: 'David Leveaux’s beautifully judged production does full justice to this ingenious modern classic [...] Both Zoë Wanamaker and Samantha Bond give deeply moving performances as the betrayed wife while Teale and Cotton capture both the sexual elation and guilty panic of the husband.'

The Times: 'Wanamaker carries it through brilliantly, from a cheerful lack of suspicion to shock, shades of attempted acceptance, and final dissolution.'

Financial Times: 'the production is worth seeing for Zoë Wanamaker alone.'

Guardian: 'it's Wanamaker who gives the evening its distinction by showing, with vivid particularity, how loss of trust in one's partner numbs the sense of self.'

Independent: 'Wanamaker’s performance, especially, is one of infinite pain and dark intimations of mortality.'

Daily Mail: 'This production has much going for it: strong acting from the likes of Samantha Bond and Zoe Wanamaker, plus a performance of wickedly slinky glamour from Annabel Scholey.'

Wall Street Journal: 'The uniformly magnificent acting is exemplified by Ms. Wanamaker who, in the second half, alters her entire body language from confident to grieving, helped by Hildegard Bechtler's fluid sets and Mark Henderson's lovely lighting.  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Passion\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" also means undergoing and suffering - something this beautifully crafted play, directed with well-honed precision by David Leveaux, never lets you forget.'

Observer: 'A first-rate cast is led by Zoë Wanamaker's outstanding Eleanor.  She shows what happens when nonchalant marital trust becomes desolation.'

Independent: 'Driven to despair, Wanamaker's once-confident Eleanor is searing.'

Mail on Sunday: 'Zoë Wanamaker is at her most compelling.  Initially as springy as her curls, confident of her husband’s love, she almost visibly caves in, crushed by grief.'

Daily Express: '[Eleanor] risks losing part of herself, becoming a husk of the assured, confident woman she was at the start, something the excellent Wanamaker conveys to devastating effect.'

Bloomberg: 'The quiet despair in Wanamaker’s voice is worth the price of the ticket.'

The Stage: 'what is so supremely affecting in Leveaux’s production is the effortless transparency of Zoe Wanamaker’s beautiful performance as the wife'

Official London Theatre: 'Everything about the Olivier Award-winning actress – the way she holds herself, her facial expressions, the look in her eyes – conveys that of a destroyed woman, plagued by doubt and no longer able to trust her once loving husband.'

London Theatre Guide: 'Zoë Wanamaker's hugely affecting Eleanor is a woman trapped in an insufferable dilemma.'

Wales Online: 'As a result of this strong casting and a great script that does not suffer at all from the passage of 30 years, Passion Play proves to be an absolute delight that should fill the Duke of York's auditorium throughout this limited run.'

The Arts Desk: 'Leveaux’s production zings, stings and draws blood, and Wanamaker is devastating, visibly crumbling as every certainty is stripped away from her.'

British Theatre Guide: 'Director David Leveaux manoeuvres his wonderful cast, performing to perfection, around the stage and each other with deceptive skill, ensuring that each has a chance to shine'

The Arbuturian: 'A production of true class'

Be The Red Carpet: 'Wanamaker does a fantastic job of garnering the audience’s sympathy [...] The change in the character from a bubbly, outgoing wife to a shell of her former self is heartbreaking and brilliantly played.'

The Hollywood News: 'Zoe Wanamaker is deeply moving as a woman whose world is falling down around her but is desperate to keep her emotions under wraps.'

Jewish News: 'a thought-provoking performance of Nichols' play, dutifully brought to life by a superb cast'

Platform505: 'Zoe Wanamaker is a tour de force in Passion Play and towards the end is a real tragedienne'

Richmond & Barnes Magazines: 'The central quartet of leads is happily rock-solid, Wanamaker in particular offering a really persuasive interpretation of a woman slowly losing her sure grip on life and love.'

The Argus: 'Zoë Wanamaker leads an outstanding cast'

West Sussex Gazette: 'it will certainly take the West End by storm'

Worthing Herald: 'Directed by David Leveaux, it is easy to see how the show is being billed as a modern day classic.  It's one not to miss!'

Latest 7: 'Zoë Wanamaker has star billing and her performance is excellent, especially towards the end when the sparkle and lights in her eyes simply deaden as she gives in.'

Guide2Brighton: 'With such a superb main cast, the stage was pulsing with energy and dynamism.'


A new edition of Peter Nichols's Passion Play script, featuring Zoë and some of her co-stars on the cover (pictured below), has been published to coincide with the production.

Related links

Official Passion Play website

Official Passion Play Twitter profile

Official Passion Play Facebook Page

Official Passion Play Storify Page - Richmond Theatre (for audience members' responses to the show)

Official Passion Play Storify Page - Theatre Royal Brighton (for critics' and audience members' responses to the show)

Official Passion Play Storify Page - Duke of York's Theatre (for critics' and audience members' responses to the show)

With thanks to Janet for her assistance.

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