Interview with A Passionate Woman cast and director

Talking all things nostalgia, ageing and acting, SoGlos met with cast members and the director of A Passionate Woman, set to hit the Everyman stage this February.

Kay Mellor’s romantic comedy, A Passionate Woman will be performed in an original adaptation at Everyman Theatre from Friday 17 to Saturday 25 February 2017, set to blend past and present during a nostalgic and witty show.

With many familiar faces returning to Everyman Theatre, including Bergerac star Liza Goddard, director Paul Milton, and actor Hasan Dixon, the romantic comedy will take to the stage in Cheltenham before embarking on a national tour – with SoGlos finding out what audiences can expect after enjoying a behind-the-scenes chat with the cast and director.

Paul Milton, the Director

A Passionate Woman

Can you tell us about the upcoming tour?

A Passionate Woman was written in the 1990s and originally performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds; this production completes the circle as the tour finishes back at the same place, which is nice.

When working on A Passionate Woman, did you get inspiration from the original stage production or BBC miniseries?

We haven’t looked at the BBC television series which starred two actresses, Billie Piper and Sue Johnston in the role of Betty Stevenson, when we only have one – Liza Goddard – so it’s very different.

By having only one actress playing Betty, the audience gets to see the 1960s come into 2011, which is great.

Why did you pick Liza Goddard for the lead role?

The flashbacks in the play go back to 1969, and I wanted an actress who was prominent at that time, which Liza was.

Can you tell us how the themes of nostalgia, memories and regret are depicted in the play?

The story raises questions about marriage and how to keep a marriage alive. It also explores ‘emptiness syndrome’ through Betty, a woman whose son is about to get married – an event which triggers everything.

The question becomes, what does a parent do and who do they become when this happens? In A Passionate Woman, Betty and her son have driven the family, and when they’re separated, Betty is left only with her husband who she’s not had much to do with.

The major subject throughout the play is ‘what am I supposed to do now?’

It sounds like the play is darkly comic; what genre is it?

It’s a comedy but one that makes the audience think, which is the best kind of comedy.

Liza Goddard, who plays Betty

A Passionate Woman

Image ® Hide The Shark.

Can you tell us a little bit about the character of Betty?

Betty is a housewife who’s been married for a long time, with a beloved son Mark who is just leaving to get married, which leads to a crisis in her life.

There’s a saying, ‘a son is a son until he gets a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all her life.’ It’s a different feeling than if your son goes away to university – when he gets married, it feels like you’re losing him, and it’s traumatic. This is what’s happening to Betty.

Why did the role appeal to you?

It’s a cracking part for a woman. As an actress, all you can do is read a script and think that you like the writing, and I did!

What was it about Kay Mellor’s writing that struck such a chord with you?

She writes about real women, and what real woman go through.

Have you seen the television adaptation or stage show?

No I haven’t – I think it’s bad to watch someone else’s performance in the same role, as it can make you compare yourself.

I don’t like the idea of two people playing the one role of Betty. In this play, the whole play is in the present, and Betty is reminiscing about past.

What’s so lovely about theatre is that you can be there with the audience, and experience everything with them.

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience on stage and in television?

I started in theatre in Sydney, Australia; instead of doing A Levels I went into theatre. I was in Skippy for two years and then came to England, where I was in television series Take Three Girls, which was the first show to star young woman, and also the first drama in colour!

The play deals a lot with ageing, weight and regrets. Does the play echo your own feelings at all, and do you wish you’d shown off your body more when you were younger?

Absolutely. I grew up in the generation of Twiggy, when everyone wanted to be skinny, but when you get older you want a bit more to you.

I was once told you have to choose either your waist or your face – you should choose your face!

How have you found that age has affected your career?

I like ageing – you can be invisible. And it hasn’t stopped me from getting parts, I’ve been working for 50 years.

You’re well known for your role in Bergerac. Can you tell us a little about your experience on the show?

It was fantastic. It had a wonderful script, it was like being given the biggest cake you’ve ever had.

It was filmed in Jersey which was a great location, and it was beautifully shot. John Nettles engenders such a great atmosphere. And my character was a little bit naughty, which was fun.

Can you tell us about your links to Cheltenham?

I was married to Alvin Stardust, father of Shaun Fenton who used to be headmaster at Pate’s Grammar School – he’s lovely. I also have family in Cheltenham, and have played at Everyman Theatre many times; I love it here.

Hasan Dixon, who plays Craze

A Passionate Woman

Image ® Hide The Shark.

Can you tell us about the part of Craze in A Passionate Woman?

Craze had a love affair with Betty in the 60s, he was a bit of a philanderer, and after Betty and her husband moved away, he was shot by his pregnant wife.

Craze’s ghost is conjured up by Betty on the day of her son’s wedding – she’s about to lose her son and she’s in a very vulnerable place. Craze becomes very real for Betty, she can touch him and feel him.

Playing a ghost sounds like an interesting role?

It is, and the question remains whether he’s actually there – is he just in her head, or is he present as a ghost? Craze wants some answers from Betty. He’s a charming but shallow character – while Betty’s love is genuine, his is questionable.

For Betty, Craze represents something in her life which is now lacking – passion and excitement. Although Craze convinces Betty that he loves her, does he believe he can feel like this for more than one person?

What is the play’s message about secrets?

There are lots of secrets in the story. It’s an exploration of a love affair and how although things get buried, but they’re never buried forever.

A Passionate Woman will be running at Everyman Theatre from Friday 17 February to Saturday 25 February 2017. For more information see A Passionate Woman at Everyman Theatre, call (01242) 572573, or visit directly.

By Kathryn Godfrey

© SoGlos
Friday 27 January 2017

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