This inter-war comic novel is an entertaining piece of social history and is certainly due for a recessionary revival. The outstanding aspect of the present recording is the brilliant reading by Rodney Bewes, who showcases his extraordinary talent for voices and accents. A feature of Priestley’s prose is his use of dialect, and both Yorkshireman Jess Oakroyd and the American travelling banjo player and prestigidateur Morton Mitcham give Bewes great opportunities to show his strengths. The music, too, is wonderfully catchy and you will find yourself whistling it for days.
This is the time of strict class and social divisions within English society, and upper-middle-class spinster Elizabeth Trant and Cambridge-educated teacher cum composer Inigo Jollifant are rubbing shoulders with the unspeakable and the unmarriageable in the form of a troupe of touring theatrical players. Originally known as the Dinky Doos, these vaudevillians are refinanced and renamed by Miss Trant as The Good Companions. Miss Trant's relatives think she has lost her mind or been kidnapped or duped and are concerned that she is losing all her money to a band of gypsies.
Naturally, hearts are stirred and broken, dreams inspired and lost, and hopes raised and dashed. After a sabotaged performance, the troupe disbands: one of the actors, Jerry, marries Lady Partlit, a fan; actress Susie and pianist Inigo become successful and famous in London; Miss Trant finds a husband; Oakroyd emigrates to Canada to join his daughter and her husband, and the other performers carry on with their life on the road.
As a glimpse of how things used to be before Angry Young Men took over the stage, The Good Companions will remain a special piece of English writing, and there is no better way to enjoy it than in this tremendous recording, which will itself become a classic.
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