Originally published as a novel in 1927, Benighted was the first real introduction to the world of a then unknown J.B. Priestley. Now the world premiere of its stage production, adapted by Duncan Gates, will be staged at the Old Red Lion this Christmas. Following the success of the 2015 world premiere of Arthur Miller’s No Villain, the Old Red Lion are now renowned for their exciting programming decisions.
In 1932, Benighted was adapted by Universal into a film version called The Old Dark House which, upon its release, broke box office records across the UK and continues to influence modern cinema to this day.
J.B. Priestley is best known for works including An Inspector Calls (returning to the West End this November), Time And The Conways and When We Were Married. In Benighted, the literary seeds of one of Britain’s greatest ever playwrights are beautifully evident in the rich dialogue, unforgettable characters and gripping tension – now fully realised on stage for the first time.
Set in the heart of wildest Wales on a treacherously stormy night where it seems the world itself is going to end, Philip and Margaret Waverton are left with no choice but to abandon their Austin Tourer and seek refuge in an old dark house. Soaked, hungry and exhausted from their ordeal, the Wavertons’ relief at finally being indoors rapidly slips away as it becomes devilishly apparent that their gracious hosts for the evening, the peculiar Femm Family (and indeed the house itself), may be far more frightening than the Welsh mountainside they seek to escape.
J.B. Priestely’s son, Tom Priestley, comments, Benighted was my father’s second novel which was totally unlike his first novel Adam in Moonshine, and indeed unlike anything he wrote later. He liked to try his hand at different genres and, as he told me later, he had to enjoy his writing himself, otherwise how could he expect anyone else to enjoy it? Experiment was a key part of that enjoyment. It will be fascinating to see how it now translates for the stage, a new and very different medium. Of course the blend of characters will be as written but the setting must be adapted for the theatre.
Benighted will be directed by Stephen Whitson whose credits include Elegies (West End), Putting it Together and The Last Five Years (both The Lyric Theatre, Belfast), Little Women (Birmingham Old Rep), Barnum (Associate Director: UK Tour), From Here To Eternity (Associate Director: West End) and Private Lives (Assistant Director: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh).
Benighted has been adapted for the stage by Duncan Gates. A graduate of the Royal Court Writers Programme, his previous credits include People’s Day (Pleasance Theatre), Sorrows Of Young Werther, (Zoo Venues Edinburgh), Two Steps Forward (Bush Theatre), Passenger Incident (Theatre 503) and Earplugs (Arcola Theatre). His play Arkansas was long-listed for the Bruntwood Prize and the Verity Bargate Award.
Benighted by J.B. Priestley
Performance Dates Tuesday 6th December 2016 – Friday 1st January 2017
Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday matinees, 3pm
Running time tbc
Twitter @BenightedPlay, @ORLTheatre
Writer J.B. Priestley
Adapter Duncan Gates
Director Stephen Whitson
Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ