by J B Priestley

Royal Lyceum Theatre Grindlay Street EH3 9AX To 9 M arch.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 6 Mar 7.45pm.
Captioned 9 Mar 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0131 248 4848.

then Dundee Rep Theatre Tay Square DD1 1PB 13-30 March 2013.
M9on-Sat 7.30pm (no performance 18 March) Mat 21, 23, 28, 30 March 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01382 223530.

Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 March.

Priestley treat for Forth and Tay.
When he’s told that the Conway house could have fetched a good price “after the last war” the least sympathetic character in J B Priestley’s play points out it’s no longer after the last war, “it’s before the next”. That’s during the central act, set in the play’s own time of 1937, and it makes a bold statement. As British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was trying to keep the peace, Priestley made clear how things were going. Ernest Beevers is unpleasant, but he’s unerring on practical matters.

Unlike the Conways, seen in their old dignity during the outer acts, set in 1919 (the first two acts are played together here). It’s not only Mrs Conway’s descent into Miss Havisham-like wildness, or the family’s degeneration into bitter mannerisms and weakness that takes the edge off their earlier warmth; Jemima Levick’s clear-headed production shows the condescension and casual cruelty of these people, along with a disengagement from reality and their mother’s repeated dwelling on the past which suggest a debt to Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.

Ti Green’s flat, greyed-out set encourages static groupings rather than movement. It can be constricting but allows glimpses of the characters doubled behind, in other planes of existence, which makes Priestley’s point, turning defeat into something more hopeful. The book which mild-mannered but content Alan offers to lend his sister Kay – only the humbler Conways will find hope, on a less material plane than Beevers – is surely J W Dunne’s An Experiment With Time, popular in the decade before the play appeared, and one of the works on which Priestley based his ideas of time as something through which people can redeem themselves and life be given ultimate point (an optimism still evident in his 1964 book Man and Time).

There’s some unevenness in the playing – Andy Clark is uncharacteristically uneasy as Beevers (something different from the character’s awkwardness with the Conways) – but a lot is fine too, including Richard Conlon’s unassertive Alan, Jessica Tomchak varying between pride and subservience as the glamorous Hazel, and Irene MacDougall’s matriarch, unseeing both in confident affluence and anxious decline.

Ernest Beevers: Andy Clark.
Alan Conway: Richard Conlon.
Joan Helford: Nicola Harrison.
Mrs Conway: Irene McDougall.
Robin Conway: Martin McBride.
Gerald Thornton: Jamie Lee.
Madge Conway: Sally Reid.
Hazel Conway: Jessica Tomchak.
Carol Conway: Molly Vevers.
Kay Conway: Emily Winter.

Director: Jemima Levick.
Designer: Ti Green.
Lighting: Mark Doubleday.
Composer: Philip Pinsky.

2013-03-06 01:06:11

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