Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury
Dangerous Corner is the first Salisbury Playhouse production of 2013. My knowledge of J.B. Priestley is limited to reading An Inspector Calls and so I was interested to see this play.
Director of a publishing firm, Robert Caplan (Edmund Kingsley), and his wife, Freda (Kirsty Besterman), are holding a party at their country retreat. Their guests include co-directors, Charles Stanton (Tim Dutton), and Gordon Whitehouse (Mawgan Gyles) with his wife, Betty Whitehouse (Ellie Beaven), and close friend, Olwen Peel (Ruth Everett). After listening to a radio play the guests discuss the recent suicide of Stephen Caplan's brother, Martin. Freda offers Olwen a cigarette from a music box which Olwen recognises and it is soon discovered that both of them saw Martin hours before his death. This leads to the characters revealing dark secrets that should have been left alone.
The play reminded me of The Sacred Flame, except this play is set long after the investigation of a death. Dark secrets are revealed and the the tension rises until the play culminates in J.B. Priestley's signature ending, where the play goes back to the beginning and starts to give a different, happier, 'what-if' story. The difference is that the audience is shown an illusion whereas they have just seen the reality of the characters' lives. Whilst The Sacred Flame ended on an emotional note, Dangerous Corner revealed each secret subtly. What is more I prefer this play to The Sacred Flame because the former made sure it was easy to follow as each revelation sprang on the audience.
The cast was shown at first as the perfect circle of couples, but as the play progressed each actor had a chance to shine. Edmund Kingsley's Robert Caplan, as the dead man's brother was naturally pushing for the truth, but was left drained by the end. Kirsty Besterman's Freda Caplan was fiery when confronting others yet could not bear to hear the truth. Ellie Beaven gave an excitable naive and energetic performance as Betty Whitehouse.
Mawgan Gyles meanwhile produced a Gordon Whitehouse who was protective and would easily burst out in anger as the secrets were revealed. His revelation may also have been the most emotional of them all. I did think though that Tim Dutton was speaking too fast as Charles Stanton. Elsewhere, although Ruth Everett was a steadfast Olwen Peel, when forced to reveal her dark secret, the biggest revelation of the play, I thought she should have been more distressed.
There is not much to say about the design, because the play relies more on the performance, but once again Salisbury Playhouse had created a detailed set of a art-deco drawing room. A detail of the set was the number of large bottles of brandy and with so much tension, it was easy to see why they were there.
This was a fantastic play that was performed by a strong cast. Whilst I liked The Sacred Flame, Dangerous Corner took its time and was therefore easier to follow. This is a great start to the year for the Salisbury Playhouse and is worth seeing at a low Top Price.