Families can be hazardous

cast of dangerous corner

Michael Praed, left, Colin Buchanan, Lauren Drummond and Matt Milne find themselves in a Dangerous Corner. Picture: Robert Day

Dangerous Corner

Malvern Theatres

****

UNDER a veneer of polite, charming and elegant social graces, JB Priestley’s first play explores the truth of the characters and relationships among the apparently successful Kaplan family and associates.

An argument over a cigarette box is sufficient to trigger an exposure of decadence in the whole group - adultery, drugs, theft, marital disasters and a brother's suicide all lie beneath the surface.

The truth is likened to a sleeping dog - 'let sleeping dogs lie' the saying goes - but this compact group of family and close friends cannot let the truth lie. Curiosity and pride lead to exposure and humiliation.

This play, like Priestley's better known An Inspector Calls, leads us from one character to the next in the pursuit of truth. One after another confesses to their role in Martin Kaplan's demise. Here there is no lead 'Inspector': the group collectively turn the spotlight on successive individuals to bring about their confession.

There is no one who escapes the spotlight and there is, in this wordy piece, a somewhat contrived feeling.

This is compounded by the inevitable Priestley twist at the end which offers a kind of alternative course to the development of the plot. Ultimately we are left to question whether we are better not to revisit past failures and expose truth in a way that leaves us questioning our own validity or reason to carry on living. Such exposés are like driving at excessive speed round dangerous corners.

Bill Kenwright's production of this play is beautifully acted. Michael Praed's cool Charles Stanton and Kim Thomson's Olwen Peel held our attention in a strong cast that has great experience, strong stage presence and delivered the lines with excellent clarity and projection.

The set is an Art Deco drawing room which provided a sense of the affluent and sumptuous. It was a satisfying and pleasing backdrop for the action. The lighting and the sound likewise were effective and complementary.

The action however is a bit laboured and contrived. Priestley himself described it as an 'ingenious box of tricks'. It is certainly amazing that he composed it within a week.

We are gripped by the slow unravelling of mystery and the thickening of plot despite some long-windedness. On the inside the characters are all coping with guilt, fear, pride and illusion.

As Bob Dylan wrote:

“If my thought-dreams could all be seen

They’d probably put my head in a guillotine!”

This is consequently a play for the slightly sophisticated, cerebral and patient theatregoer, but it is produced with brilliant style and polish. It provokes reflection on the place of truth-telling, the amount to which we all live in levels of pretence and illusion in our views of life and others. To 15-11-14

Timothy Crow

10-11-14 

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