SUMMER DAY’S DREAM
by J B Priestley.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 24 September 203.
Sun-Mon 7.30pm Tue 2pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 September.
An autumn night’s dream of a production.
In 1940 J B Priestley’s Yorkshire tones reassured Britain through his weekly wireless Postscripts of English values of tolerance and freedom in the fight against Nazism. In the mid-fifties he involved himself in the campaign against nuclear weapons. Between, in 1949 came this fantasy of an England after a Third World War, prefiguring a Green agenda celebrating low-tech society, renewable energy and respect for the earth beneath our feet.
Aided, on Sunday night, by the breakdown of the production’s sole piece of modern technology (a futurist device prefiguring laptops and skype) – so apt it might almost be incorporated into the evening – the play advocates the slow, steady Dawlish life, traditional to the point of historical in the costume of farm bailiff Fred.
The developing argument is weighted against the three visitors who threaten to turn the pastoral community into an industrial wilderness manufacturing synthetic products. But the despoliation of the physical environment, the paradox of ever-faster communications which end-up wasting time while power-structures determine who communicates with whom: such points still strike home with force in the local habitation Priestley creates for them.
Director Alex Marker is sympathetic to the play’s pace and conflicts, expressed by a fine cast, with Kevin Colson and Keith Parry speaking for a slow life with plenty of time to say what’s needed – though ironically the community wouldn’t exist without Colson’s Stephen Dawlish having been a wealthy businessman pre-Third War.
Eleanor Yates has a wise innocence as Stephen’s grand-daughter, while Tom Grave fullfils well the role of young man in love.
But it’s Lisa Armytage as the middle generation whose performance stands out among the home team. Incorporating Margaret’s mystic edge, which touches on Priestley’s ideas on time, Armytage grounds other-worldliness within a firm everyday reality.
The international visitors are all splendid, Helen Keeley perfectly judging Soviet severity and human warmth in her Ninotchka-derived Russian, Patrick Poletti’s plastic-tie wearing Hemer every inch the Yankee businessman, and Patrick Singh – in whom Priestley sees India’s advance when the country was only just independent – calmly expressing a belief in the progress which is threat as much as hope.
Stephen Dawlish: Kevin Colson.
Fred Lomas: Keith Parry.
Margaret Dawlish: Lisa Armytage.
Rosalie Dawlish: Eleanor Yates.
Franklyn Hemer: Patrick Poletti.
Madame Irina Shestova: Helen Keeley.
Christopher Dawlish: Tom Grave.
Dr Bahru: Peter Singh.
Director: Alex Marker.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Simeon Miller.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Costume: Josie Thomas.
Assistant director: Mark Dominy.