A Passionate Woman Review: Piping Hot

April 9, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

4A PASSIONATE WOMAN: Sunday April 11th, BBC, 9pmALERT ME

Who would have thought that Billie Piper – whose debut single “Because We Want To? caused everyone’s eardrums to bleed in the late 90s – would ever make it as a successful actress?

But with roles in Doctor Who and Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, she’s proved that while her music could be used as a weapon of mass destruction, her acting chops are up to scratch.

A Passionate Woman is a tale of forbidden romance set in the decadent opulence of 1950s Leeds. The opening scene of a man being shot on a fairground waltzer by an unknown gunman fixes one thing firmly in your mind – this isn’t going to be something that ends well.

Betty (Piper) is a frustrated housewife. Her life is unremarkable. Her husband works at a foundry and treats her, if not badly, then with very little attention. “You used to dance? she says, sashaying about in a yellow dress, “Yes, when we were courting, there’s no need now? he replies – he’s a practical man with no romance in his heart.

Betty’s only entertainment is the weekly dances she attends with her sister but she functions more as an alibi for her sister’s extra-marital shenanigans than indulging herself.

This all changes when Craze asks her to dance – he’s tall, dark, handsome and charming, and easily sweeps her off her feet. Hastily backing away from the situation, Betty tries to forget about him, only to find that he lives downstairs from her with his Geordie wife Moira.

They begin a passionate affair, Betty initially resisting but eventually giving into to Craze’s persistent advances. Soon they’re necking in the gazebo while her husband waits at home.

She almost ends it when her sister’s affair is found out and the tutting of doorstep disapproval reverberates around the small community – Betty is all too aware of the consequences of being caught. But as you know Craze will eventually meet his end, the question of “how?? constantly looms.

Billie Piper excels as Betty, nailing a tricky Yorkshire accent and balancing the excitement of passion in her life for the first time with the guilt and fear at being caught. Craze’s lines are as cheesy as a month-old sock but it’s believable that such Mills and Boon aphorisms could easily win over someone like Betty. But is he a womanising scoundrel or the love of her life?

While on the surface, it appears to be your average domestic drama, it’s lifted by a strong performance from Piper. Part two will centre on Betty 30 years later with The Royle Family’s Sue Johnston stepping into her shoes – if she’s as good as Piper, we’re in for a treat.

Sevvy says:

Having now watched this play in full (the second and final part was screened on BBC 1 yesterday eveing), I can conclude that I thoroughly enjoyed it. (‘Enjoyment’ in my case – as in many a woman’s, I suspect – being the fact that the tears were free-flowing by the time the credits were rolling!) I have to admit to preferring the first part, with Billie Piper, simply because it provided more intensity and true drama; this second part was, perhaps, a little too frivolous, with the ‘humour’ sometimes in danger of becoming almost farcical I thought. Having said that however, Sue Johnston’s performance was excellent (as I’d hoped it would be) and perhaps it was best that the delicate subject matter of mental illness/potential suicide was handled with mirth, rather than the heavy, depressing dramatics it could have been.

Whatever, as I’ve previously said, I’m sure I was not alone in my emotion at Betty’s realisation that her boring, staid and rather emotionless hubby was really her rock, and the one man in her life who truly loved her. The bit that really got to me was when that same husband, Donald (extremely well played by the versitile Alun Armstrong) confessed that he had known all about her passionate affair from the beginning … thus proving that he had a love and goodness stronger than any tall, dark and handsome man of every woman’s dreams – after all, the first is only ever a fantasy, the other Real Life.

Lou says:

I thought Billie was excellent in this role with her accent and lack of confidence but felt the man was awful. Sure he was good looking but didn’t seem to have much presence and just came across as a selfish git. That ended making me not like her character very much as you couldn’t see what she saw in him and why she would keep dumping her baby all of the time to see him. That I’m afraid in my opinion just became annoying after a while. I know it is a true life story but not sure it will have done the lady justice? Shame as was really looking forward to watching it. Will still watch next week though as really like Sue Johnstons acting!