The Roundabout is a little-known play by J.B. Priestley that actor-director Hugh Ross discovered in his father’s library. The only known previous production took place in 1932, but while the play is in some respects dated, it is also very funny, pertinent and lively.
The play concerns Lord Kettlewell (Brian Protheroe), who is facing the prospect of having to sell off his stately home, while his daughter has returned from Russia as a Communist. There are elements of Wilde and Shaw in this amusing and witty comedy, which manages to mix a light Downton Abbey-esque touch with on-point social commentary.
The financial concerns of Lord Kettlewell reflect the Britain of 1931, when the economy was struggling and troubling rumours from Stalin’s Soviet Union were reaching UK shores. His daughter Pamela, played superbly by newcomer Bessie Carter, and her fellow, Comrade Staggles, represent the new ideology, which Priestley relentlessly satirises, along with the nobility. My favourite character, though, is the unapologetically Edwardian Chuffy Saunders, played with aplomb by Hugh Sachs, who gets all the best lines.
While not a masterpiece, this play is hugely enjoyable, and is definitely worth seeing for fans of Priestley.