Small casts, simple sets, nice props: most people consider Priestley as nothing more than the good old standby of the Amateur Dramatic society. But then most people only remember When We Are Married and An Inspector Calls. Stephen Daldry and designer Ian MacNeil have changed all that.
Created for a repertory theatre outside London, Daldry made his National Theatre debut with their reworking of Priestley's greatest hit. Smart move. The West End transfer was swiftly followed by a Broadway replica. Japan is confirmed and Australia is next on the itinerary. The Priestley estate is doubtless as happy as anyone about this, particularly if it leads others to rifle through the collected works and rediscover Priestley's 45 other plays. (Not to mention the TV and radio plays, travel books, political commentaries, the opera libretto and the 28 novels.)
This Sunday, the theatrical great and good are gathering at the Albery Theatre to celebrate his centenary. With all proceeds going to cancer research, this is a golden opportunity to spend an evening in the company of (amongst others) Alan Bennett, Barbara Leigh-Hunt and Sir John Gielgud. They may not sing the finale from The Good Companions, but we can always hope.
Albery Theatre, Sun 18 Sept (071-867 1115)David Benedict on theatre
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