By J B Priestley
Directed by Michael Attenborough
A Bill Kenwright Production
Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Date: Friday 17th October 2014
This is one of my favourite Priestley plays, so it doesn’t take much for me to have a good time, but this was still a decent production. The performances were fine, and the set was a lovely 1930s style drawing room; Art Deco dripped from every item. A large circular rug in the middle of the stage had a diamond inlay pattern – at first, in the pre-performance gloom, we suspected it was part of the wooden floor – with a sofa on the right and two comfy chairs on the left. The fireplace on the far left had a square wooden mantelpiece and a brightly painted folding screen stood beside it. The double doors at the centre back were flanked by tall bookcases; their glass doors had wooden diamond-shaped inserts which were echoed by the panes of the two tall windows far right. Various tables, chairs and other furnishings completed the picture of a well-to-do family drawing room of the period, and the mood was enhanced by the contemporary music played before the start.
There was no messing with the play either, not that it’s possible to do that when the structure is so perfect and so important. The audience was supportive as well, gasping a little at the revelation just before the interval, as well as laughing heartily at the humour of the restart. We were in the front row, and so close to the action we felt we were practically in the same room, fortunately without being interrogated ourselves. The reprise was nicely done, and when Gordon found the dance music on the radio, the discrepancy regarding the cigarette box was easily smoothed over. They then mimed for a bit before taking their bows – Charles Stanton asked the various ladies for a dance and was refused by Betty and Freda, while Olwen chose to drift past him and dance with Robert instead. They sashayed for a while to the music, moving towards the front of stage while the rest of the cast stayed out of their way, and then they all came forward for their bows. Since it’s charity week at the theatre (although this is the first time we were propositioned, surprisingly) Michael Praed stopped the applause – an unusual thing for an actor to do as he acknowledged – and gave us the necessary information as to why buckets would be rattling at us as we made our way out. One final burst of clapping and we were done. A good end to the playgoing week.
© 2014 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me