Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Shirley’

This is a very welcome and very rare revival of a J B Priestly play much along the line of An Inspector Calls. Goodness knows what they thought of it in 1943 – despite the wartime setting and a somewhat dated preachiness, it’s still challenging 68 years on.

Nine characters emerge from different places outside the walls of a city. Priestly’s concern with class means there are three from the upper class – a knight, a lady and her daughter,  three from the middle class – a man from The City, a bank manager and his wife and three from the working class – a seaman, a waitress and a char lady. We don’t know how they got there or why,  but we eventually discover – when the gates open – the city is some sort of egalitarian utopia which attracts some and repels others. Five return from whence they came (one reluctantly), two stay on and two miss the deadline whilst their love for one another is played out.

I’m not entirely clear what point he’s making – maybe prophesying a post war ‘third way’? – but in any event, it’s an intriguing and interesting ride. The Southwark Playhouse’s Vaults (under London Bridge station) is a perfect space in which to create the mysterious atmosphere. There’s no set as such – just a couple of walls and a doorway – but the costumes are enough to place the play in its period. The production does misfire occasionally, notably with music that often jars – particularly the faux fanfares that accompany each character’s first entrance with a follow spot, but it allows you to evaluate the play unhindered by any directorial concept.

The characterisations from all nine actors are excellent. James Robinson conveyed the idealism and passion of Joe very well and Thomas Shirley brought the money obsessed Cudworth to life. You empathise easily with the frustrated and unfulfilled bank manager as portrayed by Daniel Souter and Jean Perkins’ char lady is an absolutely delicious cameo.

Great to catch a rare Priestly and a gold star to Southwark Playhouse for providing the opportunity.

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