REVIEW: Eden End at Cambridge Arts Theatre

BOTH amusing and poignant, Eden End may be one of J.B. Priestley’s lesser known plays but it is certainly well worth seeing.

The story was written in the 1930s but is set in 1912, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. It follows the Kirbys as prodigal daughter, Stella, returns to the family home, Eden End, after an eight year absence.

Throughout the play the characters look forward to the coming years with relentless optimism, believing that a better world will soon be upon them.

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As he wrote the lines Priestley knew that the reality would be quite the opposite and this would have been meaningful to the first audiences.

But he was not to know the full extent of horror that would await his characters and the world at large; that instead of a brilliant future the Edwardians were to face two lengthy wars.

In hindsight this adds an extra depth to Priestley’s play.

But Eden End is not all doom and gloom. The family members each have their own reaction to Stella’s return, from the jealous stay-at-home sister and the aging father to the young brother who is desperate to be seen as an adult.

The characters are well developed and filled out as the play progresses and the audience is drawn into the story. The family’s loyal servant is the least developed of characters, with her strongest trait being an absolute hatred of the modern inventions – the newly installed telephone and the gramophone.

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The play is filled with amusing but natural one-liners as the family – and Stella’s former lover Geoffrey, adapt to Stella’s sudden reappearance.

When her estranged husband, Charles, turns up the dynamics change once again. The audience were laughing out loud as Charles and Wilfred had a lads’ night out and went through each stage of drunkenness, from singing and falling over to sadness and anger.

Eden End is presented by the English Touring Theatre and Royal & Derngate, Northampton. With a cast of experienced actors and actresses, who have performed both on stage and screen, the tale is completely believable and well produced.

Eden End opened at Cambridge Arts Theatre last night (Tuesday, July 19) and is running until Saturday (July 23). Performances are at 7.45pm each day and additionally at 2.30pm tomorrow (Thursday) and on Saturday.

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Make sure you don’t miss out on this superb play by booking your place now. Tickets cost from £15 to £27 plus a £2 booking fee. They are available from the box office on 01223 503333 or you can book online at

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