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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Goodale’

I think I was born too late. J B Priestly and Terrence Rattigan are amongst my favourite 20th century playwrights and Ealing comedies amongst my favourite films. I therefore relish any opportunity to catch a J B Priestly play and booked for this rare revival six months ago! It may not be vintage Priestly, but it’s a charming, original (yes!) and thoroughly entertaining piece with a uniformly superb set of performances.

J B Priestly specialised in domesticity with gentle humour and a moral dimension. Here, we’re in suburban north London in the 1930’s where the Redfern’s and their adult daughter have Mrs Redfern’s sister and brother-in-law to stay following their return from a posting in the Far East. George Redfern is in the paper business, his daughter Elsie is about to get engaged, Bernard bangs on about life in the colonies and Lucy is a nag who criticises everything. So far, so suburban.

Imagine the shock when George confesses to his daughter, her new fiancée and the in-laws that he’s a crook. The engagement is off, as are the in-laws. Is this what George wanted? Is it true? Does his wife know? Then, as in his now most famous play, an inspector calls.

Though it’s a touch slow at the start, Oscar Toeman’s production soon becomes a delightful and charming light comedy. The confession is so at odds with what you’ve seen up to that point, it differentiates the play from its contemporaries or indeed much that has followed it. It has that warm feel of an Ealing comedy and, like The Ladykillers, a secret produces a delicious turn of events. Lily Arnold’s 30’s living room set is by necessity sparse, given the lack of space but, together with splendid period costumes, it perfectly captures the time and place.

Whatever you think of the play, you could not resist as fine a set of performances as you’d wish to see. Timothy Speyer is terrific as pompous brother-in-law Bernard as is Lynette Edwards as his righteous and indignant wife. Robert Goodale keeps George deadpan so you’re never sure whether he’s a crook, a joker or cleverly orchestrating events. Karen Ascoe as his wife Dorothy is in the background for much of the first half, but comes into her own after the interval and is masterly at the play’s conclusion.

This was only Priestly’s second play, twelve years before the other inspector called, and you can see the foundations for that later play being laid – all is not what it seems. I’ve never seen the film they made from it and it hasn’t been staged in London in the 30+ years I’ve lived here, so yet again huge congratulations to the Finborough Theatre for uncovering it. Another little gem.

 

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