Time play is a loose category for a form of drama that in some way exploits chronological sequence by various means: the flashback, and what is sometimes referred to as the ‘flash-forward’. It entails the exploitation of dramatic convention. Numerous playwrights have used various devices. For instance, in The Winter’s Tale, the Chorus asks us to accept the fact that sixteen years have elapsed since Perdita was ‘lost’.
The most well-known dramatist who experimented with the space-time continuum is J. B. Priestley (1894–1984). In this, he was influenced by the theories that J. W. Dunne presented in The Serial Universe (1934) and An Experiment with Time (1927). Priestley experimented with space and time in four plays: Johnson over Jordan (1939), I Have Been Here Before (1937), Time and the Conways (1937), and An Inspector Calls. For instance, in Time and the Conways, he cleverly allows eighteen years to pass between Acts I and II before reverting to 1919 in the third act. Time’s nature has piqued the interest of many writers. H. G. Wells is a good example. Another is Graham Greene, who in his autobiography Ways of Escape ponders the possibility of utilizing symbols from both the past and the future. The concept of time is of particular interest to writers of science fiction.
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