Bright Day by J. B. Priestley, adapted by Diana Griffiths

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BBC Radio 4, 30 May - 6 June 2010
This compelling adaptation of Priestley's 1946 novel centred on the plight of Gregory Dawson (Jack Shepherd), who goes to a seaside hotel in Cornwall in order to finish a screenplay. An accidental encounter with Lord and Lady Harndean (Fred Ridgway, Janice McKenzie) prompts him to reflect on his past - specifically 1913 and 1914 (the two years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War), when the Harndeans were simply Mr. and Mrs. Nixey, two outsiders from the south of England who came to the northern English town of Bruddersford.
As Dawson reflects on the events of that period, so he becomes more and more troubled. He remembers his association with the Alington family - sisters Joan (Sarah Smart), Bridget (Sarah Churm) and Eva (Lowri Evans), who seemed such happy-go-lucky personalities, yet were eventually blighted by tragedy, as Eva fell to her death off a cliff. He also remembers dealing with a ten-year-old girl Laura Blackshaw (Megan Winnard). Dawson went off to war soon afterwards; and encountered Joan after the war's end in 1919, by which time she had become a teacher. When Dawson asked her about Eva's death, Joan became hysterical.
These events cast a pall over Dawson's life in the present - for him they represent a lost world of "peace, friendship, and love" destroyed both by the Great War and by the family tragedy. He can never escape from it - particularly when actress Elizabeth Earl (Lisa Sadovy) sets him up with a meeting with the now-middle-aged Bridget, who talks about her experiences after 1914 with a pronounced lack of emotion, almost as if she would prefer to forget them. Dawson seems paralysed by the past; for him life has no meaning, it represents nothing more than "a brick wall."
But Priestley isn't content to leave his protagonist in such despair. By chance Dawson is contacted by a Mrs. Childs (Olwen May), who invites him to a meeting of young filmmakers. Although the meeting proceeds well, Dawson finds that there is something familiar about Mrs. Childs; eventually it turns out that she is the grown-up Laura. At last Dawson has the chance to come to terms with his past; it is not something to weigh him down, but rather a "solemn tenderness for life" - something one should acknowledge, rather than repress.
Bright Day covers similar ground as Time and the Conways and An Inspector Calls, showing how the social changes in Britain between 1914 and 1946 had a profound influence over people's lives. The Great War destroyed people's innocence, while the post-1919 years offered false dreams of prosperity. Many families suffered experiences similar to those of the Alingtons (in Bright Day) and the Conways, as their aspirations were completely frustrated, while the nouveaux riche upwardly mobile exploiters such as Ernest (in Conways) and the Nixeys profited at their expense.  On the other hand Bright Day - as the title suggests - leaves us with a feeling of optimism: if we understand how the past has inevitably influenced both present and future, then we might be able to determine our future course of action.
Pauline Harris' production divided itself neatly into two discrete episodes. The first was largely descriptive, contrasting the drab post-1945 world, where Dawson was writing his script, with the world of 1914 in which the younger members of the Alington family expressed their hopes for the future. While there were possible obstacles on the horizon - for example, the Nixeys' presence in Bruddesford, and their potential ambitions to take over the Alington family business - all three daughters seemed to lead happy-go-lucky lives, with Dawson acting as an enthusiastic eye-witness. The second episode was much darker in tone, as Dawson recalled the tragedy of Eva's death and tried to make sense of his own view of the past. Throughout the episode, a mournful cello could be heard in the background, suggesting his despair. Jack Shepherd's soft, melancholy voice rose and fell, according to the character's various moods. Although there was no guarantee that his future might be rosier than his past, at least he emerged from his experiences as a stronger personality.