Passion Play

Play by Peter Nichols. When trust fails, love dies. Confronted with adultery Eleanor and James discover the limits of their long marriage. Is this an opportunity to take a fresh look at their lives? or will it lead to heartbreak and loneliness? A black comedy about love and infidelity.

Original West End London Production 1981 - Aldwych Theatre

1st West End London Revival 1984 - Wyndham's Theatre

2nd West End London Revival 2000 - Donmar Warehouse and Comedy Theatre

3rd West End London Revival 2013 - Duke of York's Theatre

Peter Nichols' other West End theatre plays include A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Poppy and Privates on Parade.


Original West End London Production 1981 - Aldwych Theatre

Previewed 8 January 1981, Opened 13 January 1981, Closed 4 April 1981 (in repertory) at the Aldwych Theatre

The cast featured Billie Whitelaw as 'Eleanor', Benjamin Whitrow as 'James', Eileen Atkins as 'Nell', Anton Rodgers as 'Jim', Priscilla Morgan as 'Agnes', and Louise Jameson as 'Kate', with Frank Brennan, Ian Flintoff, Colum Gallivan, Neville Jason, Claire Jenkins, Juliette Mole, Sally Nesbitt, Patricia Shakesby, and Kevin Wallace.

Directed by Mike Ockrent with sets by Patrick Robertson, costumes by Poppy Mitchell, lighting by Mick Hughes, and music by George Weigand.


1st West End London Revival 1984 - Wyndham's Theatre

Previewed 11 April 1984, Opened 18 April 1984, Closed 24 November 1984 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The cast featured Judy Parfitt as 'Eleanor', Leslie Phillips as 'James', Zena Walker as 'Nell', Barry Foster as 'Jim', Patricia Heneghan as 'Agnes', and Heather Wright as 'Kate', with Thomas Armstrong, Kate Beswick, Angela Collins, Sarah Duncan, Peter McMichael, Tim Reynolds, Freda Rodgers, and Anthony Shirvell.

Directed by Mike Ockrent with designs by Martin Johns, lighting by Joe David, and sound by Paul Bull.

This production, with the same cast, transferred to London's Wyndham's Theatre following a run at the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester where it previewed from 7 March 1984, opened on 8 March 1984, and closed on 7 April 1984.


2nd West End London Revival 2000 - Donmar Warehouse and Comedy Theatre

Previewed 13 April 2000, Opened 18 April 2000, Closed 10 June 2000 at the Donmar Warehouse
Previewed 21 June 2000, Opened 26 June 2000, Closed 26 August 2000 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)

The cast at the Donmar Warehouse featured Cherie Lunghi as 'Eleanor', James Laurenson as 'James', Cheryl Campbell as 'Nell', Martin Jarvis as 'Jim', Gillian Barge as 'Agnes', and Nicola Walker as 'Kate', with Ruth Brennan, Toni Kanal, Arthur Kelly, Francis Maguire, and Peter Winnall.

The cast at the Comedy Theatre was the same, with the exception of the ensemble, which was also increased by one: Heather Craney, Judith Hepburn, Arthur Kelly, Francis Maguire, Tom Marshall, and Katherine Stark.

Directed by Michael Grandage with designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Hartley T A Kemp, and sound by Fergus O'Hare.


3rd West End London Revival 2013 - Duke of York's Theatre

Previewed 1 May 2013, Opened 7 May 2013, Closed 3 August 2013 at the Duke's of York Theatre

A major revival of Peter Nichols' Passion Play in London starring Zoe Wanamaker and Owen Teale

The cast features Zoe Wanamaker as 'Eleanor', Owen Teale as 'James', Samantha Bond as 'Nell', Oliver Cotton as 'Jim', Sian Thomas as 'Agnes', and Annabel Scholey 'Kate', with Kelly Burke and Matt Weyland.

Directed by David Leveaux with sets by Hildegard Bechtler, costumes by Laura Hopkins, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Fergus O'Hare.

Zoe Wanamaker's London theatre credits include playing opposite David Suchet in Howard Davies's 2010 revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons at the Apollo Theatre; Phyllida Lloyd's 2001 West End Premiere of David Mamet's Boston Marriage at the Ambassasors Theatre; Michael Blakemore's 1996 West End Premiere of A R Gurney's Sylvia at the Apollo Theatre; and playing opposite Judi Dench in Howard Davies' revival of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Barbican Theatre in 1984.

David Leveaux's London theatre directing credit include the 2011 stage adaptation of Iain Softley's 1994 film Backbeat at the Duke of York's Theatre; a revival of Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia in 2009 at the Duke of York's Theatre; the 2006 bio-musical Sinatra at the London Palladium; and a major revival of Tom Stoppard's play Jumpers starring Simon Russell Beale at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 2003, and subsequent transfer to the Piccadilly Theatre.

"Peter Nichols's searing, skilful study of the destructive force of adultery is 32 years old, but only occasionally shows its age - and is anyway given little chance to in David Leveaux's well-paced production. Eleanor and James are a model of middle-aged contentment until the younger Kate makes what at first seems a ludicrously unlikely pass at James. Here Nichols experiments: James's alter-ego Jim is introduced, then soon afterwards Nell, Eleanor's other mental half, appears on stage too. It's a brilliant way of showing the teeming mental angst of this torrid situation: at one point Eleanor faces up to a terrible truth stoically, while her inward self, Nell, crumples... A cracking play performed by crack actors." The Sunday Times

"Peter Nichols's play about a married couple's affairs may have felt pretty lively in 1982 but 30 years on, it feels like a bit of an heirloom. Art dealer James has been faithfully married to his chorister wife Eleanor for 25 years but when Kate, the man-eating young widow of an old friend, seduces him over dinner he can't keep his trousers on... Although Zoe Wanamaker invests Eleanor with the right mix of sexuality and emotional desolation, Owen Teale has a much harder job making James'a sympathetic figure. David Leveaux's nifty production, framed by the soaring score of St Matthew Passion, underscores the disparity between the passion James thinks he is indulging in and the more tawdry reality. Yet Passion Play relies essentially on old-school caricatures: selfish husband, fragile wife and sexpot mistress." The Metro

"There may be nothing funny about adultery, but the havoc wreaked upon a marriage by an affair is the subject of this clever and amusing play... The ingenious trick is that while James and Eleanor navigate the progress of his affair, the actors are joined on stage by identically dressed alter egos who voice what they are really thinking. It is a tricky device, but carried off seamlessly, helped by the excellent performances... Packed with black humour, and staged with wit and ingenuity, it's a fast paced and laugh packed evening, but also ultimately a powerful portrayal of the raw pain of emotional betrayal." The Sunday Mirror

"It was written in 1981, so illicit calls are made from telephone boxes and incriminating letters written, but nothing has dated the brutally bruising experience of betrayal... Zoe 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. At the end, this tiny, near-mute husk says, 'I won't be second-best.' But we will never know if Eleanor will have Nell's strength to leave. Nichols's doubling devices leave that hanging, adding to the play's haunting and provocative power. Owen Teale's transformation is just as dramatic, but ugly and awful, from rumpled, sweaty novice liar to practised and plausible deceiver. Not a date play, perhaps, but essential viewing for couples." The Mail on Sunday

Passion Play in London at the Duke's of York Theatre previewed from 1 May 2013, opened on 7 May 2013, and closed on 3 August 2013.