“For anyone who cares about continuity in theater history, who wants to see connections between playwrights over centuries, the Mint Theater Company is heroic…For example, J.B. Priestley’s 1957 family drama THE GLASS CAGE is arguably the missing link between Ibsen’s bourgeois tragedies and the moody domestic-subversion shockers of Joe Orton and Harold Pinter,”1 writes David Cote In Time Out New York.

Penned in 1957, THE GLASS CAGE tells the story of a 1906 Toronto clan and the dangers they face in letting old family wounds go unattended. Priestley’s drama was first brought to light in 2001 when his son Tom recommended it for a reading as part of a Priestley Festival. A full production followed in 2007 at the Royal Theatre, Northampton.

One year later, this masterwork was finally introduced to American audiences in a production that went on to win a Lucille Lortel award for Roger Hanna’s “confining set design of gilded pipes and glowering gas lamps.”2

“Expertly staged by Lou Jacob and beautifully acted by an ensemble of actors who slip into their period roles with ease, THE GLASS CAGE represents yet another fascinating literary exhumation from this invaluable theater company.”3

Priestley was born in the North England industrial town of Bradford.  In his teens, he quit school to become a clerk in the wool trade. Already an ardent Socialist, he wrote articles for a political journal, The Bradford Pioneer, in his spare time. He left these jobs to enlist in the army at the outbreak of World War I. He was wounded at the front in France, recovered, and was then sent back to the front. After mustard gas poisoning rendered him unfit for further battle, he was made an arranger of troupe “entertainments,” giving him early experience as a theatrical producer.

After the war, Priestley established himself as an essayist and novelist. With the help of American playwright, Edward Knoblock, he adapted his best-selling novel, The Good Companions, for the stage in 1931. Priestley, at age 37, suddenly found himself beginning a new career as a playwright. In 1932, he enthralled the West End with Dangerous Corner, an ingenious thriller that presents multiple outcomes of the same event. For the remainder of the decade, and throughout the 1940’s, Priestley would rule London theatre. His hits included Eden End (a 1934 comedy about a mediocre actress who discovers she can’t go home again) and An Inspector Calls (a 1947 mystery about a detective who uncovers the scandalous secrets of a middle-class Edwardian family).

By the 1950’s, however, Priestley was falling out of favor. His socialist politics ruffled the Establishment on both sides of the Atlantic. His apparently “realistic” plays, often set in the Edwardian past, seemed old-fashioned compared to the vituperative “Angry Young Man” movement then setting London theatre ablaze.

However, beneath the deceptively calm, ordered surface of Priestley’s drama lurks a subversive tumult of time and emotion. The iconoclastic Priestley was passionately against a class system of any kind. Several of his plays, such as The Glass Cage (1957) warn against the dangerous hatred bred by inequality.  He was also intrigued by the vagaries of time.  He studied the theories of mystic P.D. Ouspensky, who claimed there was an almost infinite number of time sequences, and mathematician J.W. Dunne, who argued that past, present, and future exist on the same temporal plane. Priestley’s own experiments with time are evident in such works as Time and the Conways (1937), a play that jumps abruptly back and through several eras.

Priestley’s work remained a staple of repertory theatre, but it wasn’t until the breathtaking mid-1990’s revival of An Inspector Calls, directed by Stephen Daldry, that audiences began to realize how prescient he was.


More photos »


  • David McBane Gerry Bamman
  • Malcolm McBane Jack Wetherall
  • Mildred McBane Robin Moseley
  • Elspie McBane Sandra Struthers-Clerc
  • John Harvey Chad Hoeppner
  • Bridget Fiana Toibin
  • Dr. Gratton Chet Carlin
  • Jean McBane Jeanine Serralles
  • Angus McBane Saxon Palmer
  • Douglas McBane Michael Crane / Aaron Krohn


  • Set Design Roger Hanna
  • Costume Design Camille Assaf
  • Lighting Design Marcus Doshi
  • Sound Design Lindsay Jones
  • Properties Design Deborah Gaouette
  • Casting
    Stuart Howard, Amy Schecter & Paul Hardt
  • Production Stage Manager Brian Maschka
  • Assistant Stage Manager Andrea Jo Martin
  • Press Representative David Gersten & Associates
  • Illustration Stefano Imbert
  • Graphics Hunter Kaczorowski


In 1956, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger burst onto the London stage, shattering the drama that had come before and defining what would follow. In Osborne’s play, Jimmy Porter, the first of the “angries,” dismisses J.B. Priestley with a snide and callow slur:

“He’s like Daddy—still casting well-fed glances back to the Edwardian twilight from his comfortable, disenfranchised wilderness….”

Is The Glass Cage , a play, an answer to Osborne’s insult? London’s Evening Standard newspaper thought so, and headlined their review: “The Mellow Old Man delivers a Counter-Blast.”

Patricia Denison, editor of “John Osborne: A Casebook,” discusses the relationship between Priestley and Osborne, and the seismic shift that occurred in the drama of the ’50’s. Denison teaches dramatic literature in the departments of English and Theatre at Barnard College.


Priestley was fascinated with the Edwardian period of British history (1901-1914). Many of his plays were set during that era and he even wrote a social history of the time. “The Edwardians,” a volume rich with illustrations and photographs, was published in 1970.

Edward Mendelson, professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, discusses the Edwardian Era.


Tom Priestley is the guardian of his father’s estate and is responsible for THE GLASS CAGE resurfacing in London in the last decade. He discusses Priestley’s life and work.


Priestley wrote THE GLASS CAGE after meeting a trio of renowned Canadian actors, the brothers Donald and Murray Davis, and their sister, Barbara Chilcott, founders of the Crest Theatre in Toronto. Priestley admired their strong family resemblance and dark, brooding good looks and decided to write this play for them which premiered at the Crest Theatre and was a smash success. Success secured a transfer to London’s Piccadilly Theatre, where Ms. Chilcott took the town by storm:

“The most exciting young actress to hit London in months!” Derek Monsey, The Sunday Express 1957

Barbara Chilcott visits Mint Theater for the American Premiere of THE GLASS CAGE and speaks about meeting Priestley, performing the play in Toronto and London and her extraordinary six-decade career.


The Crest Theatre was the beginning of homegrown theater in Canada. A generation of Canadian theater artists began their careers at the Crest. Priestley’s play had such a significant impact on the Crest that Paul Illidge named his history of the theater after the play.


A short documentary made by Tom Priestley and his father in 1984, as J.B. was approaching his 90th birthday. The screening was hosted by Tom Priestley who took questions after the showing.