J. B. Priestley‘s 1943 parable They Came to a City dates from the Halcyon days (WWII notwithstanding) when playwrights wrote about Utopian futures rather than the Dystopian ones which are all today’s writers are capable of imagining.
Nine people from across the class spectrum find themselves transplanted to a strange place where they are granted the privilege of a glimpse into the life of a city where the people are “healthy, busy and happy” and where the notion of making money for its own sake is dismissed as idiotic or criminal.
Should they stay in this remarkable place or should they leave? A decision to remain appears to be forever as at sunset the giant doors will close without an announcement. Where’s Carole Middleton when you need her?
Despite its crudely drawn class caricatures and the Amicus portmanteau film opening it’s peculiarly un-English, almost European in fact. – a bit Huis Clos (with some rather strange Noggin The Nog music thrown in for good measure) although it actually pre-dates Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist jottings by a year. And whereas the French protagonists are in hell, Priestley’s English people are presented with the possibility of a socialist heaven on earth.
During their post-show discussion Phil decided Priestley’s tract was unsettlingly un-Whingerish, about approaching things with an open mind and the possibilities of change. This led quite naturally to a debate on the merits and de-merits of today’s Alternative Vote referendum in which it transpired that one Whinger would leave his customary signature (a cross) in favour of change and the other, more appropriately Whingerish, against. In case that in any way helps you to make up your mind.
The earnest political debating was astutely concluded with an agreement that since the Whingers’ votes cancel each other out, they might as well both have an extra 15 minutes under the eiderdown (not the same one you understand) rather than exercising their democratic rights.
Phew. Well, moving on from politics it’s worth noting that among some decent performances, the Whingers have a new fave in the form of Jean Perkins who is rather splendid as the working class Mrs Batley from Walthamstow.
A most interesting curiosity whose reception could be immeasurably enhanced by moving the audience eight yards further forward in time for opening night.
Meanwhile, one of the Whingers is contemplating moving to Prince Charles’ town of Poundbury.