Contributors:John Baxendale, Lee Hanson, Tom Priestley
This really is a difficult event to assess. Two extremely knowledgeable and disarmingly informal scholars talking to a well-informed Bradford audience about the most enduring work of the city’s favourite literary son – what is there not to like? It was certainly a pleasant way to spend 70 minutes.
Bradford Literature Festival boasts an exciting and very ambitious programme, but it seems that the organisation may have been over-stretched – with the Priestley event also being dogged by bad luck.
The event in City Hall, which began 45 minutes later than advertised, should have included a filmed interview between J.B. Priestley’s son Tom and actor Kenneth Cranham, a famed Inspector Goole. Unfortunately Cranham was unable to take part and a confusion with the City Hall equipment meant that Tom Priestley’s talk about the background to An Inspector Calls and its significance was barely audible.
John Baxendale, author of Priestley’s England, attributed the enduring quality of An Inspector Calls to the way in which it reflects the time in which it was written (1945), the end of a democratic people’s war for which Priestley was a propagandist. At the same time its values equally reflect the time of later productions: Stephen Daldry’s famous 1992 production was specifically a commentary on Thatcherism.
Lee Hanson, Chairman of the J.B. Priestley Society, had a three-way recipe for the play’s success: it’s simple to follow, it’s a gripping whodunit and it poses the eternal question, “Who is responsible?” He also made a telling comparison to Dickens’ Bleak House.
Both spoke engagingly, but briefly, and after 45 minutes it was left to a question and answer session to fill at least some of the advertised 90 minutes.
Reviewed on: 17th May 2015
Photo Credit: Special Collections at University of Bradford