Priestley and An Inspector Calls to feature at the Bradford Literature Festival
The Enduring Appeal of J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls
To celebrate 70 years since its first performance and to coincide with a new TV adaptation, Bradford Literature Festival are bringing together a panel of renowned Priestley experts to offer their insights on the play’s enduring appeal. This will take place on Sunday 17th May. To book your place click this link: http://www.bradfordliteraturefestival.co.uk/events/the-enduring-appeal-of-j-b-priestleys-an-inspector-calls/
To celebrate 70 years since its first performance and to coincide with a new TV adaptation, we’re bringing together a panel of renowned Priestley experts to offer their insights on the play’s enduring appeal.
To begin, there will be a specially filmed discussion between President of the J B Priestley Society and the author’s only son, Tom Priestley and actor Kenneth Cranham, known for his masterly performances as Inspector Goole in London and New York.
The screening will be followed by a live discussion between Lee Hanson, Chairman of the J B Priestley Society and John Baxendale, cultural historian at Sheffield Hallam University with a particular interest in the life and times of J B Priestley.
Lee Hanson is series editor of the Rediscovering Priestley Series for Great Northern Books and forewords to Valancourt editions of Priestley novels. John Baxendale is author of Priestley’s England: J B Priestley and English Culture.
The Inspector is Crossing the Atlantic
A professional production of An Inspector Calls will be staged by the Pioneer Theatre Company, Salt Lake City, Utah from 19 February to 5 March 2016. We look forward to hearing more about this production.
A Rare Production Indeed
A very rare production in North America of Laburnum Grove was staged by Western Gold Theatre in the PAL Studio Theatre, Vancouver, British Columbia from 20 to 22 March 2015.
A Talk on Priestley’s Wars
Priestley’s Wars by Neil Hanson, published in 2008 by Great Northern Books, was, and remains, an important addition to the Priestley bibliography, especially because it incorporates the 1941 Postscripts. These, of course, were very much more than a pendant to the perhaps more celebrated 1940 series.
At the Leeds City Art Gallery on 17 March Neil Hanson, accompanied by his son Jack, gave a presentation on the ‘war and peace’ themes covered by the book. Jack Hanson read extracts not only from the Postscripts themselves but from other books, including Lost Empires, Margin Released and English Journey. Most of these extracts were familiar, as, indeed, was the content of Neil Hanson’s talk but the presentation as a whole was none the less valuable, especially since the speaker talked of Priestley in an extremely positive fashion.
In the question and answer session which followed we were able to correct a misapprehension contained in the introduction to the talk by a member of the Gallery staff (or so we assumed), namely that few of Priestley’s books were currently in print, with those that are conﬁned to the Great Northern Books series. We pointed out that in recent years three other publishers had reissued what has amounted to a signiﬁcant number of the novels, plays and short stories.
One unfortunate piece of information which Neil Hanson revealed at the end of his talk was that he only had two copies of the book for sale, the rest of the stock having been lost in a ﬂood.
Johnson Over Jordan at the BFI a Sell Out Success.
The BFI’s rare screening of the television adaptation of Priestley’s epic and extraordinary play, Johnson Over Jordan was a massive success. The depth of feeling generated when Everyman Robert Johnson shivered, turned up his coat and disappeared into the vast space and the smoky mist led many in the audience to break out into spontaneous applause.
First screened in 1965 this TV revival of the 1939 stageplay traced Robert Johnson’s experience when he is catapulted into his own afterlife. The original stageplay was Priestley’s first attempt to push out beyond the the middle-class naturalism which critics assumed was his normal habitat. Johnson, a decent deficient man, is at first brutally examined and exposed before gaining the opportunity to relive certain key moments in his life and come to some understanding of his own Self.
The screening was introduced by Dr Billy Smart and also Hannah Gordon who landed her first ever television role playing the part of Freda, Johnson’s daughter. Dr Smart an expert in film and television studies and the joint curator of the BFI’s Forgotten Drama Series spoke at length about the difficulties the play created for the production team and director Lionel Harris. Hannah Gordon explained how Sir Ralph Richardson had been so very kind to her and how the role was a springboard to what became a long and flourishing television career.
Johnson Over Jordan is featured heavily in the latest Journal of the Society. This is free to members but can be purchased via our downloads page.
Also on the bill was You Know What People Are, the only surviving edition of JB Priestley’s attempts to create an original drama that could only be told through the new medium of television, using a fixed repertory company of the same four actors for each play in the series. Sadly the other three episodes were lost, but this one, found in the BBC archives, received its first airing since 1955.
In the series Priestley aimed to ‘avoid the grand and pretentious and aim at something not out of place on the domestic hearth.’ The episode screened resembled something like modern day comedy sketch shows with a series of scenes, short in length, where a particular attitude or human characteristic was shown through either monologue or conversation. Most of the settings were commonplace: a bus queue, a bar, an office etc and all were comedic. Priestley appeared in several (most notably dressed up as a Martian in a scene that depicted how humans and spacemen might communicate should they ever meet) and held the entire programme together with narration between the scene changes. It was dated, but it did, in its way foreshadow the sort of sketch show that is now so much a fixture of British television.
CAST ANNOUNCED FOR BBC’S AN INSPECTOR CALLS!
David Thewlis, as Inspector Goole, heads the cast of the BBC One commissioned Drama Republic film of An Inspector Calls.
Mr Birling will be played by Ken Stott and Mrs Birling, by Miranda Richardson. They will be joined by Chloe Pirrie, Kyle Soller and Sophie Rundle.
As already announced, filming will take place in Yorkshire this month and the completed production will be aired on BBC later this year as part of its season of classic 20th century literature adaptations.
We will continue to update you with news of this production when we have it. Needless to say we are excited at the prospect and delighted the BBC have chosen to adapt this great piece of drama.