The Good Companions
By JB Priestley
27 June - 2 July, 2011
The travelling troupe soon to be The Good Companions
Susie Dean given a vision
Huddelston Football fans dance
Jess goes onboard ship to start a new life
A highly entertaining jolly hockey sticks end of the pier musical play about the fun-filled fortunes of a touring concert party in the 1920s known as the Dinky-Doos. They are stranded in the English countryside when their manager absconds with the most recent box office revenue and the lady pianist. Fear not - help is at hand and a happy ending round the corner.
Welcome to this end-of-season production. We’ve had a memorable season
at BLT and we all very much hope that this final production will send you off
whistling into the Summer sun in the happy footsteps of Jess, Miss Trant,
Mitchum and Inigo. The cast and backstage crew can testify that Mercer and
Previn’s music is highly infectious - irritatingly so when you wake in the middle
of the night with tonight’s rehearsal tune fizzing around your head!
The roots of this show lie, as is eloquently expounded elsewhere in this programme, in the JB Priestley novel of the same name, first published in 1929, a novel, which, though not JB’s first was, it seems, his breakthrough into the big time. Since then it has given pleasure to countless numbers of people, including your director tonight. I loved it, and unhesitatingly recommend it to any of you who wish to follow further the adventures of our heroes.
JB’s connections with the Bradford (and Bingley) area are well-known; he is a local hero, as well as a national, and deserves more recognition than he perhaps currently receives, in my humble opinion. You will doubtless have noticed the Priestley Society’s display in our foyer. Further background information about Priestley’s local connections will appear in the October issue of BLT’s newsletter.
The story is a simple one. A group of “not very good” travelling players are joined at their latest Concert party by an unlikely accidental quartet of characters. Together they take their show on the road with some measure of success, culminating, after various trials in Happy Endings all round. (Come to think of it, that last sentence could very well describe our rehearsal process!)
As mentioned elsewhere this is my first attempt at directing a Play with Music. It has been an interesting experience, different in many ways from directing a “play without music”. All productions are the quintessence of teamwork, but this more than most, I think. I have to mention the wonderful support I have received from the very talented and committed colleagues who have together produced what you see before you tonight. Our aim from the outset has been to produce a slick, fast-moving, happy and entertaining evening. The talented wardrobes team, the props team, the lighting and sound technicians, the Stage managers, the workshop “boys”, the “Extras” who may have small parts but who - as you will witness - are vital. Above all, though, I thank three huge talents - our Choreographer, Julie Boldy, Musical Director, Audrey Glover, and set designer, John Penrose. Without all these people this show would not have gone ahead.
A jolly story, with memorable tunes, fun and some frolic. Who could want for more on a Summer’s evening? I hope you enjoy the show as much as we (mostly) have enjoyed rehearsing and performing.
LOOKING BACK WITH THE GOOD COMPANION
Strictly speaking the term ‘picaresque’ applies to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing rogue. But it has come to be applied more widely to novels which describe the adventures of a lively and resourceful hero on a journey. The supreme example of such a novel is Cervantes’ Don Quixote and it was sometime in 1928 that J B Priestley conceived a novel in the tradition of that great masterpiece. The difference was that there were to be three journeying characters from very different backgrounds. However, his publishers were not enthusiastic, telling him that such a book would not appeal to the current reading public. Priestley went ahead anyway and during the summer and autumn of 1928 and the cold winter of the following year he produced The Good Companions. It can, perhaps, be easily seen why the more fastidious members of the literary establishment were unenthusiastic about The Good Companions. Quite simply it was, for them, a ‘people’s novel’, enough to damn it. And now, in this fraught, even frightening, year of 2011, we might be forgiven for feeling that a measure of escapism, a world where dreams mostly come true, is no bad thing.
Michael Nelson is the Information Officer of The J B Priestley Society.
The full text of this article by Michael Nelson can be seen in the October BLT Newsletter.