Time & The Conways

Posted on: 26 May 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laurence Green reviews JB Priestley’s Time & The Conways which has been revived in a new production in the National Theatre’s Lyttleton auditorium.


A time travelling journey into broken dreams and dashed hopes is provided by JB Priestley in his play Time & The Conways which has been revived in a new production by Rupert Goold in the National Theatre’s Lyttleton auditorium.

The Conways, celebrating Kay’s 21st birthday in 1919, seem a golden family – safe and well after the Great War, looking forward to future careers, marriages and a brave new world. Through Priestley’s clever manipulation of time, we see into their future – 1938 – and back again to where the seeds of their downfall were sown.

Priestley was fascinated by the study of time. Writing the work in 1937, he saw how Britain was complacently failing to learn from history and charging headlong towards another conflagration.

This is an ambitious work which combines a family drama, a mediatation on JW Dunne’s theory that time isn’t linear but past, present and future are happening simultaneously, and even a state of England play – which is remarkably prescient with talk of collapsing property prices and recession – about vanquished ideals.

The play lacks the power and persuasion of the NT’s last foray into the world of JB Priestley with the multi award winning An Inspector Calls, as the characterisation is rather sketchy and the drama slow burning, taking flight in the second act when family arguments and recriminations come to the surface.

Goold elicite exs excellent performances from Francesca Annis as the matriarch and Hattie Morahan as Kay, as well as Paul Ready, Fenella Woolgar, Mark Dexter , Lydia Leonard and Faye Casrelow as the six other siblings. Furthermore Laura Hopkin’s evocative and stylish sets provide a realistic backdrop to the actions played out on them.

Despite its shortcoming this remains a fascinating and thought-provoking evening in the theatre that forces us to reassess our attitudes to time and the decisions we make in life that determine our fate.

By Laurence Green

Where: National Theatre’s Lyttleton auditorium

Box Office: 020 7452 3000

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