The Rose and Crown

by J B Priestley

The Rose and Crown had 1 performance about 9 years ago (on the 5th of March 2008) at Cecil Hepworth Playhouse

This is the first of Priestley’s published one-act plays and originated as a specially written television play for the BBC. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace first on 27 August, 1946; Priestley went on to adapt it for the stage in 1947.

The setting is the public bar of The Rose and Crown, a small pub in North-East London, one evening in early autumn. Into the bar comes an assortment of working-class characters who, with one notable exception, are fed up with life. Their conversations comprise the small change of bar talk, whose gloomy progress is interrupted by the arrival of a Stranger (shades of Inspector Goole in An Inspector Calls.). He has been sent from on high to collect a quota of people who are to meet their maker that day; due to a mix-up he’s one short, but on overhearing the 5 complaining, offers one of them the chance to make up the shortfall – and they have to decide which one goes. Suddenly everyone finds they’ve a reason to live and starts pointing the finger at who they think should go. It is left to Harry, the one person who loves life and is not afraid of death, to come forward and his natural fear of the unknown disappears.

This intriguing, if slightly odd and morbid, morality play with a touch of mysticism finds Priestley characteristically introducing one of his tricks of time. It remains a matter of speculation as to whether Priestley intended the play to be any sort of commentary on the state of Britain, or perhaps the British themselves, in the year after the end of the war, with Harry Tully meant to represent the cheerful-in-adversity mood of 1940 and the rest, post-war disillusionment.

There are some really good characters; London accents for the 6 customers. Once each character arrives on stage they never leave it for the rest of the play. I intend to depart totally from the set/stage directions in the script, which hopefully adds a lot more challenges, and I’d like to do the whole thing - set, costumes and make-up - in monochrome.

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Mr Stone - Keith Bollands

a miserable, grumpy, grumbling plumber, late 40s/50s

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Mrs Reed - Emma Frier

A loquacious, mournful, gossiping ‘Dot Cotton’ always complaining about her insides, 40-55

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Percy Randle - Chris Knights

Newly married, pessimistic - has trouble with his glands, 20/30s

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Ivy Randle - Maria Shine

Percy’s wife, timid and wistful to begin with, but grows more decisive, 20/30s

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Ma Peck - Jill Payne

A bitter and disreputable old bag woman, 55+

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Harry Tully - Luke Stapleton

the only cheerful one amongst the characters in the bar; happy-go-lucky, healthy, jovial 30/40

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A Stranger - David Chapman

Written for a man, but no reason why this couldn’t be played by a woman - ‘not extraordinary and yet, not quite ordinary’, efficient, matter-of-fact, 30-50.

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Director - Tony Frier

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Stage Manager - Liz Thomas

Best Supporting Player Maria Shine Elmbridge Drama Festival - 2008