The Rose and Crown

There’s always a good smattering of obscure, seldom-performed or minor plays at the Festival Fringe. Many prove to be hidden gems. Others provide the necessary evidence as to why they have been almost forgotten. The Rose and Crown probably falls somewhere in the middle.

It might give you something to chat about over a drink in your own local, but probably not for long.

J.B. Priestley wrote it in 1946 as a television drama for the BBC. A year later, he adapted it for the stage. It fits into his period of preoccupation with time. His most celebrated play, An Inspector Calls, was completed in 1945. This work is far less complex, almost simple, except for the appearance of the Stranger and the unsettling turn he gives to events.

The date is established in this production with famous radio clips of speeches from before during and after the Second World War. Rationing would not end until 1954 so as the customers gather in the pub there is moaning chat about food, clothing, the cold and a generally bleak future. Ages range from the young couple through the middle-aged and on to the old lady. Arbery Productions creates some classic stereotypes of the period, vaguely reminiscent of characters who might have been seen in the Rovers Return in the early years of Coronation Street. They rarely sparkle and attempts to define them are often overstated. The conversation is rather dull in content and languid in performance, plodding on from one topic to the next betraying old rivalries and bitterness. But then, the Stranger’s entrance causes a chill and the debate he throws them into certainly livens up proceedings. Now they must face up to what they said not that long ago.

The Rose and Crown is a classic piece of unremarkable and inoffensive amateur dramatics. It’s a good opportunity to see a plain performance of a rare work. It’s a reminder of how theatre and pubs used to be and explains why they have both moved on. It might give you something to chat about over a drink in your own local, but probably not for long.  

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

In turns comic, moving and spine-chilling, this one-act play is a rarely seen masterpiece by the author of Time and the Conways and An Inspector Calls. In the late 1940s Britain has won the war but victory is forgotten as food, clothing and much else is still rationed. Homes are cold, cities dreary and the future seems bleak. In a London pub a group of drinkers – men and women, young and old – find plenty to complain about in their lives. Then a stranger enters and makes an unusual request.