Dangerous Corner

Southbourne based actors Mark Spalding and Barbara Dryhurst just two of the talented cast of Dangerous Corner. Picture Hattie Miles

Dangerous Corner: Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth.

JB Priestley’s Dangerous Corner may have been written way back in 1932 but in the right hands its power as a brilliant piece of period melodrama remains undiminished. The prodigiously talented London Repertory Players are more than qualified to handle this superbly mannered drawing room drama as they proved with some aplomb last night as they launched the play as the second production in their month-long season at Bournemouth’s Shelley Theatre.

That’s not to say they played safe. Under the direction of their producer and founder Vernon Thompson the seven strong cast went for broke. They skilfully explored the parameters of their characters, playing scenes that contained roller-coaster emotions from screaming hysteria to repressed guilt and biting sarcasm. Yet not once did they push it too far. Their reading of Priestley’s carefully constructed cast of characters is perfect. Quite an achievement. For this is a drama that examines the dark side of buttoned-up 1930s gentility. Getting the balance right is crucial.

The action takes place after dinner and cocktails at the home of publishing company boss Robert Caplan (Al Wadlan) and his wife Freda (Barbara Dryhurst).  Also present are company directors Gordon Whitehouse (Musa Trevathan) and Charles Stanton (Mark Spalding) together with Gordon’s wife Betty (Hepzibah Roe), company Girl Friday Olwen Peel (Kirsty Cox) and their dinner guest, novelist and notorious gossip Miss Mockridge played by Nikki Kelly of TV’s Hi de Hi fame.

All goes swimmingly until a chance remark raises the subject of the recent apparent suicide of Robert’s brother and the embezzlement of £500 from company funds. Awkwardness descends as a further misplaced comment about a musical cigarette box derails the evening, plunging those present into a spiteful night of accusations, threats, speculation and the ugly truth about their loveless marriages, tragic sex lives and sad romantic fantasies. It’s a wonderfully observed cautionary tale about the consequences of waking the “sleeping dog” of truth and comes complete with a terrific final scene which rams the point home.

Dangerous Corner, Priestley’s first foray into drama, is a superb play and is beautifully presented by the London Rep’ Players as both living drama and an example of theatre that was way ahead of its time, dealing with issues like drug abuse and gay desire that were rarely portrayed so openly on stage in the 1930s. There is excellent ensemble work from the talented cast all of whom richly deserved both the full house and rapturous applause that greeted the final curtain.

The production runs at Bournemouth’s Shelley Theatre until Tuesday 14th August and will be followed from Thursday 16th August by the Francis Durbridge thriller Suddenly At Home.

Jeremy Miles

 

© Jeremy Miles 2018