All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West, dramatized by Jonathan Holloway

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15-Minute Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 Extra, 13-17 January 2014, 19 January 2014
First broadcast on Radio 4 in 2009, Sara Davies' production underlined the irony of the book's title.  Although widowed in her late eighties after a lifetime spent as a diplomat's wife, Lady Slane (Honor Blackman) made every effort to prove that there was life left in her.  Against the wishes of her siblings, she rented a cottage on her own with only her maid Genoux (Sonia Elliman) for company, and determined to discover the things she had been forced to give up when she had got married at seventeen, such as painting.  Blackman was ideally cast in this role, her deep voice and assertive vocal tones made it plain that she was not going to be dissuaded from her purpose, despite the criticisms voiced by eldest son Herbert (John Nicholas).
Her resolve was put under direct challenge, however, by the entrance of Mr. FitzGeorge (Alec McCowen) - a former lover of hers in India, who had now returned after sixty years to press his suit.  Lady Slane began by rebuffing him, but as the two of them talked at length, so she began to realize the extent to which much of her life had been wasted.  She had enjoyed prosperity, and a comfortable existence, but she had never been able to express herself - either through pastimes or through love-affairs.  FitzGeorge might be an elderly man now, but he symbolized that potential - both physical as well as emotional - that she never could fulfil.  McCowen's gently persuasive tones not only emphasized the depth of his love for her, but brought an element of emotion into the conversation that Lady Slane found difficult to handle.
In the end FitzGeorge died peacefully, his romantic desires frustrated; but his passing forced Lady Slane into making the kind of choice that she had never made before - either to react as she had done throughout her life or become a little more open in outlook.  Only after she had made that choice could she claim that "All Passion (was) Spent."
This production was dominated by the exchanges between Blackman and McCowen: two veteran actors still at the peak of vocal form who produced an enthralling piece of drama.  The supporting cast was equally good, notably Nicholas as the money-grasping son Herbert and Paul Nicholson as a distinctly unconventional estate agent.