It is thanks to the J B Priestley Society that I am writing this blogpost. Earlier in the week I finally got around to some promotion for the play and they asked me for some comments for their newsletter. The rest of this blog is therefore an adaptation of the words I wrote for them. Why this rare play, they asked? Because I had originally offered to direct a full-length Priestley for The Grads and was thinking of Dangerous Corner or Time and the Conways. EGTG didn't have a slot for a full-length play, but they needed a one-act for the Scottish Community Drama Association Festival and they asked me to put on something. I came across The Rose and Crown while looking for a suitable play and immediately decided I want to do it. It has all the elements of Priestley that I like - good characterisation with a touch of the supernatural.
|left to right from top: Oliver Trotter, Oliver Cookson|
Charles Finnie, Alan Patterson,
Beverley Wright, Hilary Davies, Hannah Bradley
Priestley's script, published in 1947, involves very detailed direction - I think for the original television version rather than the subsequent stage play. It is very static, with no more than a group of drinkers standing around the bar. I read the Runnymede Drama Group's take on it for their 2013 production and saw that they had some movement with drinkers at individual tables. Our production also uses tables; how much our direction overlaps with theirs, I have no idea. As with any play, the more we have worked it, the more drama and action emerges and although some of the characters barely move from their seats, there's enough toing and froing among the rest to keep the eyes as well as the ears occupied.
I have been impressed by how much Priestley squeezes into a short play, creating not only characters but raising ideas and reactions that are totally unexpected. Assuming the actors pull out all the stops, our production will begin with (another spoiler alert...., or skip to the next paragraph) curiosity, moves on to comedy, then bewilderment and fear before ending in .... ah well, what does it end in? That's up to each audience member to decide for themselves.
At the moment we have only one guaranteed performance, on Friday 19th February 2016, in Edinburgh. It's part of a one-act competition and if we get through there are subsequent stages (in Fife, back in Edinburgh, then in London) where we might appear. No matter how good our production is, however, I suspect that the plays with a more contemporary theme are likely to be the ones that go through. Depending on the audience reaction, we will consider putting it on at the Edinburgh Fringe, but that would also depend on the fickleness of crowd-funding.
Finally, in case you are reading this in mid-February 2016 and happen to be in Edinburgh or are irresistibly drawn to the city, you can buy tickets for our play and two other one-acts on the same evening, from the SCDA website.