JB Priestley is arguably most well-known for his seminal play An Inspector Calls, which has since become a favourite on the amateur circuit and often studied on the GCSE syllabus. However, it was Priestley’s first play Dangerous Corner which cemented his transition from novelist to playwright. Originally opening to unfavourable reviews in 1932, the play has since become a worldwide success, with its rich cast of characters and a magnificent twist at the end.
The plot follows an upper-class soirée around the Caplan household, full of laughter and drinks until the evening quite literally turns a ‘dangerous corner,’ on what starts as a throwaway comment. Secrets are gradually revealed and cheats steadily exposed until the audience realises there are very few honest characters upon the stage as we ask who knows what and who loves who?! With their quaint venue and static set, the Castle Players are an ideal group to perform such a play as little distraction focuses the audience’s attention directly where it should be; on the actors.
In the role of homeowner Robert Caplan, Simon Langford executes a flawless spiral from cool inquisitor in Act One to inebriated mess in Act Three. Meanwhile as his wife Freda Caplan, Lisa Watkinson offers a nicely executed portrayal of a character who has decidedly torn loyalties. Their more settled relationship dynamic works well against that of young married couple Betty and Gordon Whitehouse, played by Nicola Campbell and Matt Barrett, whose convincing performance of a loving couple at the beginning sets up for an emotionally charged ending.
As Olwen Peel, Linsey O’Neill is tasked with one of the more difficult monologues of the script, but treads the line between high-emotion and melodrama well with excellent vocal phrasing and control. Charles Stanton, the character which it is easy to dislike at first, is played by Steve Moore, who gives the character the correct amount of charm and charisma to stand out against his other characters throughout; characters who, in Act One, could have been interchangeable, though I am pleased to say each came into their own in Act Two. Completing the cast as cameo spinster Miss Maud Mockridge, Veronica Ryder adds a few unexpected laughs to proceedings.
Director Steve O’Neill clearly understands the importance of diction and staging as the script was easy to follow, lines weren’t thrown away and characters were allowed to move around and interact with the set fluidly and without seeming forced. Little touches were as important onstage as offstage; the comfy cushions on our seats allowed the audience to get engrossed in the play without thinking about discomfort!
The play alludes to the saying “let sleeping dogs lie”, and questions the consequences of this statement; is the truth always a virtue? Coming away with such a philosophical thought planted in my head means only one thing: this was a very engaging performance. It was just a shame there wasn’t the bigger audience cast and crew deserve. So, if you enjoy a good thriller full of intrigue, plot twists and suspense performed by a talented company, you will enjoy Castle Player’s production of Dangerous Corner. Further performances between 9 – 11 May at 7.30pm in the Village Hall, Lytchett Matravers. Tickets £10.