“I spent more than half my life, when I ought to have been enjoying myself, arguing and planning and running around like a maniac”
The Finborough continue their run of unearthing any number of “neglected classics” from some of our most illustrious playwrights with a first revival for JB Priestley’s 1949 play Summer Day’s Dream. Set in a then post-apocalyptic 1975, a nuclear war –World War III? – has devastated Britain and returned it to a simpler way of life. Deep in the South Downs, the Dawlish family epitomise the new England, which strangely looks very much like the old pre-industrial one, but their quiet farming lives are disrupted by three exploitative visitors.
This trio – an American, a Russian and an Indian – represent the new superpowers and initially arrive under benevolent auspices, but as we and the Dawlishes soon come to realise, they are here to strip the land of its valuable minerals. Through them, Priestley explores a surprisingly modern take on global politics and the role of the national versus the international, alongside a more twee paean to the virtues of agrarian life and good olde England, as suggested by the homage of sorts to Shakespeare contained in the title.
Alex Marker’s mannered production makes a solid job of it. The structural formality of the writing precludes much innovation but a stately steadiness provides a measured pace and Philip Lindley’s design makes good use of the limited staging opportunities., Patrick Poletti’s Yankee industrialist, Peter Singh as the Indian scientist and particularly Helen Keeley as the Soviet commissar make strong impressions as the interlopers and if the majority of the Dawlishes are frequently overburdened by Priestley’s speechifying, Kevin Colson as the patriarch Stephen and Eleanor Yates as his considerate niece Rosalie also impress.