KEEPING TRACK CAN BE DIFFICULT
Keeping track of Priestley productions by amateur companies was, until comparatively recently, straightforward as we were notified of them direct by the agents. This service has been discontinued and it is now necessary to monitor the agents’ ‘Now Playing’ website for production details. During the changeover we missed a very rare production, by Histons Players, Codsall, of the 1955 play The
Scandalous Affair of Mr Kettle and Mrs Moon, which the company staged in May. This is a play which, although indifferently received by the critics, managed to achieve over 200 performances in the West End. There are no fewer than three foreign-language television versions of the play, two produced in Russia and one in Germany.
EDEN END ON BBC RADIO 4EXTRA
Our first reaction to this broadcast on 9 November was ‘Thank God for BBC Radio’. Whereas the endless television channels find no place for re-transmitting productions of classic plays, Priestley’s included, BBC Radio 4Extra continues to do so. The second reaction was to reflect (once more) on how Chekhovian this play is – to the extent that it might well have been entitled Two Sisters. The heart of the play is firmly rooted in the exchanges between the Kirby sisters, particularly that in
Act 2. The other characters seem relatively secondary in comparison. But themes resonate throughout the play : regret, disillusionment, the search for emotional fulfilment. Here, it was especially pleasurable to hear Leslie Sands as Dr Kirby, an actor and producer who was such a very great champion of Priestley’s, even when – especially when – the latter’s stock had declined in the 1970s and a small-scale touring production that Sands organised was commercially unsuccessful. His
wonderfully mellow tones can be heard as the Narrator in the Yorkshire Television version of The Good Companions.
Eden End is seldom performed nowadays, more’s the pity, although the Royal and Derngate Theatres, Northampton did it proud several years ago. It offers no happy ending but tells us much about the vagaries of the human condition.