Sunday, 17 September 2017

Taking things as they come

"The lot assigned to every man is suited to him, and suits him to itself." - Marcus Aurelius

And so to the theatre. I have been to see 'Eden End', a relatively rarely performed play by one of this blog's heroes J.B. Priestley. I rather unexpectedly found myself sitting next to Tom Priestley, the great man's son. Whilst we didn't exchange more than pleasantries it certainly caused me to think that I'd got top value for my ticket money, and I commend the idea to theatres everywhere. I'm seeing some Ibsen soon and I trust that the West Yorkshire Playhouse are already scouring Norway for a descendant of the playwright so as to add that little bit extra to my visit. In the event family influence on my enjoyment of 'Eden End' didn't stop there, because after the show, over coffee and cake, Nicolas Hawkes, Priestley's stepson asked me what I had made of the play, politely listened to my interpretation and then equally courteously told me that I had got it completely wrong. That didn't bother me in itself - no one is more aware than me of the shallowness of the intellectual foundations on which this blog is built - but there is one element that does cause some lingering embarrassment. His take on it, the official view if you will, is that the moral of the play is that one must take things as they come. Given that your bloggist's major affectation is to hide behind the name of an eminent Stoic philosopher you might be forgiven for supposing that I ought to have worked that out for myself.

Going back to Ibsen, Stella Kirby was played here by the same actress who played Nora Helmer in the production of 'A Doll's House' that I saw a few months ago. This production takes Priestley's play and gives it an additional prologue and epilogue in the form of music hall routines featuring her, the purpose of which is to allude to her character's backstory, to reference other works by the author such as 'The Good Companions' and to presage the Great War which shortly followed the play's 1912 setting (*). In the finale she sings and dances while wearing male military uniform, a costume choice which I know some blog readers find titillating, but which others have recently indicated that they see as an abomination of such horror that violence is the only appropriate response. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

(*) In case you think I'm being foolhardy in venturing my own opinions despite having earlier been shot down by someone who knew what they were talking about, be reassured that I got all that from the director, to whom I also spoke at the post show reception.

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