J B Priestley's play, People at Sea, gets a rare outing next week, courtesy of Salisbury Playhouse's new artistic director, Philip Wilson.

The playwright is better known for An Inspector Calls, I Have Been Here Before and Time and the Conways.

Written in 1937, People at Sea was performed in the West End and in Berlin in 1939, but Philip cannot find any record of it being performed since then.

"Sometimes plays just fall out of fashion," says Philip. "The Playhouse has a reputation for rediscovering plays and I love the lesser known plays of the 1930s.

"I am fascinated that they are not plays about the genteel."

Philip, pictured, has been in discussion with Tom Priestley, J B Priestley's son, now in his 70s, who has never seen the play performed either.

Described as a thriller, the play is set over three days on an art-deco ocean liner which catches fire in the Caribbean, and centres on 12 individuals who have to remain on board a listing ship, due to faulty lifeboats and bad weather.

"We are in a voyage ourselves, with this play," explains Philip in rehearsal. "It feels like a new, freshly written play, most definitely not a museum piece. Priestley uses the tilting ship as a metaphor for a world under scrutiny. This is a world ripped out by society, floating and drifting. The atmosphere on board the ship becomes a pressure cooker, it is really quite tense."

Philip, his cast and stage management team have been immersed in the 1930s and this has been reflected in costumes and Mike Britton's set (his last work at Salisbury was the touring production of Comfort Me With Apples).

The cast includes Christopher Ravenscroft, last seen at the Playhouse in Tom Stoppard's Invention of Love, as the philosopher, Professor Pawlet.