I HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE
by J B Priestley.
Jermyn Street Theatre to 21 May
16b Jermyn Street, London SW1 6ST to 21 May 2016.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Fri & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10 mins Two intervals.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
Review: William Russell 9 May.
Intriguing, well played, trip back to the future
This is possibly the least revived of Priestley’s celebrated collection of time plays. Perhaps because, written in 1937, it has dated more than the others and also because the theories of P.D Ouspensky which inspired him about life not ending but having endless variations are hard to grasp.
It is, however, well directed by Anthony Biggs, has a good cast, a terrific set and there is much to enjoy.
Priestley has gathered a small group of people in a North Yorkshire inn over a Whitsun weekend. That something is wrong is clear with the arrival of a slightly sinister German psychiatrist done with just the right degree of oddness by Edward Halsted. He seems to have been there before, to know about people yet to arrive, and asks too many questions.
It also becomes clear that everyone is somehow connected through the rich, but deeply unhappy, industrialist Walter Ormund, an impressive David Schaal.
The plays – An Inspector Calls, Time and the Conways and Dangerous Corner, written in 1932, the first in the series – all revolve around decisions which affect events and which, if not taken, prevent those events happening. This is no exception.
The playing is good, but not everyone is ideally cast and some of what happens is hard to believe – the sudden romance between the hiker academic Farrant and Ormund’s much younger unhappy wife Janet is a case in point, well though they are played by Daniel Souter and Alexandra Dowling. The other problem is it takes us back to a world where class mattered much more than today.
It makes for slightly uncomfortable watching the way, for instance, that the bossy daughter of the innkeeper, nicely done by Vicky Binns, kowtows to her social betters and reacts with fear to the presence of a foreigner in her tidy world. It is a world well vanished.
No complaints, however, about Keith Parry’s bluff innkeeper although he does seem to disregard the licensing laws and dish out the Scotch to the thirsty Halsted more than would happen today. It is another revival of a well made but tricky play to Biggs and the theatre’s credit.
Sally Pratt: Vicky Binns.
Janet Ormund: Alexandra Dowling.
Dr Gortler: Edward Halsted.
Sam Shioley: Keith Parry.
Walter Ormund: David Schaal.
Oliver Farrant: Daniel Souter.
Director: Anthony Biggs.
Assistant Director: Charlotte Donachie.
Designers: Cherry Truluck & Alberta Jones.
Lighting Designer: Tim Mascall.
Sound Designer: Gareth McLeod.