Studying An Inspector Calls? We are proud to have assisted the British Library in creating a fantastic new archive-based resource to help GCSE and A-level students, undergraduates and other learners enjoy and understand this work.
Poster for the first production of An Inspector Calls, in the USSR (archive reference PRI 9/1/7).
The resource, the Discovering Literature website, aims to set the Inspector and other great works of literature in their cultural, social and political contexts. Two new articles, specially commissioned for this project, explain the story and influence of An Inspector Calls:
Journalist and author Chris Power explores the meaning and structure of the play in his Introduction. He memorably describes AIC as a “a morality play disguised as a detective thriller” in which all the characters turn out to be guilty: guilty of selfishness, hypocrisy and callousness.
Special Collections Librarian Alison Cullingford contributed an article reflecting on the ways in which Priestley’s Bradford childhood and experiences in both World Wars shaped his political thinking and fuelled the anger and urgency that drive An Inspector Calls.
Both articles are extensively illustrated with high quality images from our Priestley archive and other collections, many made available online for the first time.
Do let us know if you find the material helpful in your study or teaching. We like feedback!
The J.B. Priestley Society and National Media Museum present Johnson over Jordan. 12 October 2014, Bradford.
In the experimental play Johnson over Jordan (1939), J.B. Priestley explored the meaning of life – and death. Everyman Robert Johnson leads an ordinary family life, until he dies and is thrown into bewildering, terrifying, and, ultimately, moving afterlife experiences. This event offers the first opportunity to see the TV adaptation of the play since its original “Thursday Theatre” broadcast on BBC2 in 1965. The adaptation features a stellar cast, including Ralph Richardson, who created the part onstage, as Johnson.
A must-see for all Priestley fans and anyone with an interest in theatre, television or philosophy. You can book tickets via the National Media Museum website.
There’s plenty of good stuff in the latest issue of the J.B. Priestley Society Journal (October 2012, volume 13)
Blue plaque for J.B. Priestley at 34 Mannheim Road, Bradford. The family didn’t move from there straight to Saltburn Place as has traditionally been thought …
- JC Eastwood on Priestley’s family homes in Bradford – clearing up a mystery!
- Professor Maggie Gale of Manchester University on Priestley as a “man of the theatre” – the text of her 2012 Society lecture.
- Priestley’s bibliographer Alan Day on JB’s links with novelist Phyllis Bentley and their opinions of each other’s writings. Alan Day also looks at a series of “short uplift articles” Priestley wrote for Lever Brothers in 1940 as part of a promotion for Sunlight Soap. Fascinating parallels to the Postscripts!
- Trevor Johnson writes about Priestley and Thomas Hardy, in particular the former’s use of Hardy’s poem in the Postscript about the Isle of Wight Volunteers of 16 June 1940.
- Philip Scowcroft surveys music in Priestley’s writings.
There is also a reprint of a Priestley rarity, “The Soul of Revue”, originally published in 1925 and hitherto unknown.
The Journal isn’t available online*, but is sent in print form to all members of the Society and is available in libraries, including ours of course.
*yet, watch this space!
Posted in Literature, Priestley, J.B., Yorkshire
Tagged Bradford, Drama, J.B. Priestley Society, Journals, Music, Phyllis Bentley, Priestley, Theatre, Thomas Hardy, World War II
The revival of J.B. Priestley’s play Cornelius at the Finborough in London has drawn fantastic reviews. This one in particular from Michael Billington in the Guardian is interesting, because it draws attention to a quality of Priestley’s dramatic work which is rarely recognised.
Priestley is often seen as nostalgic and cosy, creating well-crafted but outdated plays about Yorkshire in 1912. Certainly his plays were incredibly well put together and, yes, he was always drawn to the world of his childhood. However, as Billington observes, Priestley was also a “restless experimenter” when it came to drama. He enjoyed the challenge of taking the artform in new directions.
Witness Johnson over Jordan, which traces the journey of a Yorkshire everyman through the Tibetan bardo limbo state, complete with a disturbing Expressionist interlude and a circle of time which restores Johnson’s lost childhood things. The play ends with Johnson walking away from the stage – into what?
Or Dragon’s Mouth, a platform play in which Jung’s ideas take human form and argue about the meaning of life. Or They came to a City: nine different characters find themselves outside the walls of a strange city – a kind of Utopia – which tests and transforms them …
Even his more seemingly conventional plays dissect comfortable hypocrisies (When We Are Married) or explore mysteries of time and meaning (The Linden Tree).
There is a real revival of interest in Priestley’s less well known plays, as directors and actors explore his critiques of society and unfettered capitalism. Special Collections has copies of them all, of course. If you’re interested in seeing these works on stage, a great way to keep in touch with developments is to join the J.B. Priestley Society, whose members are enthusiastic about seeing and sharing information about Priestley’s plays.
Several of J.B. Priestley’s plays, notably An Inspector Calls and the other Time Plays, continue to enthrall and educate modern audiences. But Priestley’s role in the theatre went far beyond writing for the stage.
Professor Maggie Gale will be exploring Priestley’s place in the theory and practice of mid-twentieth century drama in the J.B. Priestley Society Annual Lecture for 2012. This will take place on Saturday 10 March 2012 at 2pm in the JSB Lecture Theatre, Richmond Building, University of Bradford. The event is open to the public. For more information and to book, see the Society’s website. Society members have their AGM in the same venue that morning.