J.B. Priestley (Routledge Modern and Contemporary - download pdf or read online

By Maggie B. Gale

J. B. Priestley is the 1st booklet to supply a close and recent research of the big contribution made through this playwright, novelist, journalist and critic to 20th century British theatre. Priestley used to be usually criticised for being both too populist or too experimental and this examine unpicks the contradictions of a playwright and theatre theorist well-liked by audiences yet too usually disregarded by means of critics; describing and analysing intimately not just his performs but additionally their particular historic and modern productions. utilizing a mixture of archive, evaluate and significant fabrics, the publication re-locates Priestley as a theatre theorist of substance in addition to a playwright who challenged theatre conventions and assumptions approximately viewers expectancies, at a time whilst theatre used to be thought of either conservative and missing in innovation.    

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A play . . opens in a theatre that is not expensive to run. It is not a great success; it is not a failure; and for some time it just ‘ticks over’, neither making much money nor losing much. If such a play can be kept going for a year or so . . then after that it begins to acquire a prestige and a momentum as a long-run play . . it will achieve a reputation and be talked about . . until it becomes one of the productions that every visitor must try to see . . and then the box-office manager .

Although ‘theatre as a living symbol for the mystery of life’ seems far removed from Priestley’s more politically driven analyses of the state of theatre, it lies at the root of much of his writing on the subject: the notion of theatre as somehow ‘magical’, potentially transformative and 44 Life, politics and theory communal, is combined with a pragmatic approach to a vision of the ways in which the theatre industry might be restructured in order for society to gain fully from its educative, socially instructive and psychologically beneficial qualities.

The majority of this ‘new’ literature came in large part from a social class to which Priestley did not belong. He was a professional writer and an intellectual but there were real financial implications to his professional activity; he had no family money to fall back on should he fail to get published. In retrospect, however, Priestley had more in common with the modernists than the contemporary critique of his work suggests; a strong sense of the urban/rural divide, an interest in the idea and experience of time (see Levenson 2004), a desire to experiment with form – especially in theatre – and a repeated investigation of the psyche and so on.

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