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Anyone for Tennis

BBC1, 25th September 1968

 

 

The Listener, 3rd October 1968

 

The J.B. Priestley play, ‘Anyone for Tennis?’ on BBC1, seemed to me a very tired affair indeed, and all its would-be daring metaphysical jugglings with time didn’t redeem the worn-out theatricalities of character, construction and diction.

 

Information along the lines of “What became of so-and-so?” was thrust into the action like loaves into an oven at the end of a baker’s spade’ and the good characters, the ones who were aware of the unfathomable strangeness and malleability of time, could immediately be distinguished from all the others by the look of kindliness and spirituality on their faces.

 

 

Plays and Players, November 1968

 

The Priestley play, ‘Anyone for Tennis?’  (BBC1, September 25) was one of his television originals, and oddly enough it had something in common with ‘Post Mortem’. Again it brings someone long dead face to face with the future, and lets him learn something from the experience.

 

The time, though, the play’s message is positive: like other of Priestley’s dramatic experiments with time, it tells is that nothing is irrevocable. Its central character is a silly, shallow young man who twenty years ago killed himself when he was caught out in a bit of embezzlement. He seems likely to spend eternity re-enacting the occasion, but suddenly the intervention of one of those present at the time, who is thinking about him on our world, sets him off on the way towards self-knowledge, and the appreciation that things can be changed if he will only think of others instead of himself, will try to find out how they saw things. A lot of the play is a bit arch, a bit preachy (especially in the characters of the two raisonneurs, the hero’s great-grandfather and the girl who has read J.W. Dunne), and much of the hero’s dialogue, written in the tiresome railing style which, fifteen or twenty years ago, would have ensured that the role had to played by Michael Gough, is almost unspeakable by any modern young actor. And yet, in spite of everything, one was kept watching, intrigued in spite of oneself to know just what would be revealed, and how it would all turn out. When it comes to telling a tale, even if it is not a particularly good tale, Priestley can work the old magic.

 



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