Passion is a piece about an overpowering romantic obsession that, like its fragile, damaged heroine Fosca does for Giorgio, wraps a lingering, insistent embrace around its audience that you may feel powerless to resist.
There’s partly the gravitational pull of some of Sondheim’s most rapturous melodies that summons both the high ecstasy of love and the deep distress of its unrequited variety. But it’s also that, after the high jinks of Coward’s Design for Living currently also being revived in London, here’s another love triangle with far higher stakes: love is literally a matter of life and death here.
Jamie Lloyd’s production in the close-up quarters of the Donmar both amplifies its intensity and offers a piercingly beautiful and haunting journey to the heart of its art.
That’s stunningly captured in the thrilling trio of lead performances. Elena Roger is like a black hawk as Fosca, manipulatively swooping in on Giorgio as she uses her vulnerability and need to ensnare him.
Newcomer David Thaxton is a thrilling discovery as Giorgio, with a big secure voice that makes his songs soar; and Scarlett Strallen, ravishing as his mistress Clara, completes the triangle gloriously.
But Lloyd’s production is cast in strength throughout, with the all-male world of the military that Giorgio otherwise inhabits expertly caught in the sparring collection of fellow soldiers that includes Allan Corduner as the unit doctor who introduces Giorgio and Fosca and David Birrell as her cousin.
Evocatively designed by Christopher Oram and lit with precise attention to its shifting moods by Neil Austin, everything about Passion is breathtaking.