|Date||2nd December 2022|
|Society||New Kinver Players|
|Venue||Edward Marsh Centre (KSCA), Legion Drive, Kinver.|
|Type of Production||Play|
|Stage Manager||Seg Johnson|
|Sound||Martin Ward and Phil Drinkwater|
|Written By||J.B. Priestley|
Author: Dave Brown
This review contains spoilers.
I had not seen this play before and I was looking forward to it for a number of reasons. I have read some of J.B. Priestley’s novels and read and acted in some of his plays, including “An Inspector Calls” which is considered by many his most famous. Dangerous Corner was his first play and I discovered he wrote it in one week to prove that an author could write a play. Amazing!
This is a play with concepts that easily grab my interest. Simply put, J.B, Priestley’s perception on alternative realities or parallel universes and time travel!
His writing in Dangerous Corner is extremely good, the story and characters are impeccably designed around a slow burning plot which unfolds by placing characters in difficult scenarios and a revelation of a secret followed by another and then another, setting up for a beautiful finale.
J.B. Priestley’s view on society is interesting to note in this play as well. This play was ahead of its time considering when it was first performed in 1932, it explored theft, abuse, drug addiction, adultery, pornography and bisexuality.
Leading up to this particular evening of watching New Kinver Players (NKP), I had this sense of intrigue to why a company like NKP would choose to produce and perform this play “Dangerous Corner”. Bearing in mind, I did not know the play but I had seen the company perform in the past; it soon became apparent that this type of play was just the right one to compliment the company’s style, interests and their strengths.
I couldn’t quite explain it at the time, but I had a strong feeling it would be an interesting evening. Even before I arrived at the venue, I felt a subtle sense of “danger” and I think this came from the simple advertising. I noticed the signs advertising the play on the roads and side streets as I was driving to the venue, simply saying “Dangerous Corner”. There had to be a delicious twist to the play of some kind I thought, but what could it be? Life has a lot of dangerous corners.
Retrospectively, on my way home from the play, my imagination and the sensation of cause and effect added to the full experience of the evening. I wondered, what if I was late for the play because I encountered something by chance, or maybe took the wrong turn which changed the course of my direction and revealed something which started a spiral of events?
As the play progressed, it seemed so familiar, but then again, not so familiar. It was another example of excellent writing but an excellent interpretation of the story and script analysis by NKP. It was another excellent choice and NKP showed they could handle such a script and do the story justice.
This play relies on the skill of direction and the pace of the storytelling. But crucial, how the actors handle and relate to their complex characters and their interaction with others. There was only the occasional rare moment when I was not totally gripped by the action, some of it was a slight drop in pace for whatever reason or a distraction which unfortunately happened when a mobile phone went off in the audience. The actors were incredibly professional when this happened (3 times!) and deserved so much praise getting through it. This is a play that needs respect and full attention.
The actors comfortably held their own in a space which drew you in. The play slowly became more tense with the occasional unintentional comedic moment? I had a little laugh with “oh not another love triangle!” but as the tension was teased out with the expertise of the actors it wasn’t long before I started to believe these moments as the play changed direction again and again.
The play is set in a drawing room which belonged to the characters of Freda and Robert Caplin. Robert is a partner in a firm and is hosting a dinner party. Following dinner, the ladies of the party retire to the drawing room to listen to a wireless play called “The Sleeping Dog”. The wireless play ends with a gunshot and a muffled scream and a comment from Freda “Well, that is that!”
What follows is a conversation about Freda’s brother-in-law, Martin Caplin, who was believed to have committed suicide. This then leads onto a discussion and a chance remark from the secretary of the firm, Olwen Peel, recognising the musical cigarette box which belonged to Martin. The first dangerous corner was taken when Freda disagrees about the ownership of the musical cigarette box and therefore disturbs “The Sleeping Dog”. Freda does not let her opinion drop; therefore, this chance remark starts a spiral of events and reveals each character’s secret association with Martin.
The climax to the play ends with a gunshot and a muffled scream. The wireless play “The Sleeping Dog” ends (again!) and the story starts all over with a comment from Freda “Well, that is that!” The action of the first scene is repeated, BUT as we are approaching “The Sleeping Dog” of truth, Olwen’s chance remark about the musical cigarette box is left unchallenged.
Freda was about to challenge it (again!) but, Gordon Whitehouse, another partner in the firm, interrupts the conversation upon finally finding dance music on the wireless. Everyone gets up and dances leading to a pleasant end to the evening. The truth is still the truth, but the characters knowledge of it has changed. The audience are left with more knowledge than the actors and the Dangerous Corner had been diverted.
I found the character of Miss Mockridge who is an author in this play, extremely interesting when she was left at the end of the play without a dancing partner. She stood out throughout the play with her double meaning dialogue, she was a catalyst, but I questioned was she real? There was a slight smile from the actor Diane Baugh who played Miss Mockridge as she was toe tapping to the dance music in her chair, again leaving my imagination run riot to what she feels she has achieved. What was the meaning behind the smile? She may have genuinely enjoyed the music, but to me I imagined she could have been quite sinister in this moment. I certainly made a note after this production to attempt to study her character deeper. Diane Baugh played Miss Mockridge with a delightfully enigmatic approach.
All characters had more than one moment in this play and this was a great play for a great ensemble of actors to shine.
Accomplished actor Ruth Cattell who played Freda Caplin, the lady of the house, remained strong of character but she was incredibly wounded underneath. Ruth was perfect in this role, her inner torment expertly played. Ruth has a wonderful ability to hold the audience with her pauses and reactions and her timing and reactions truly believable.
Mike Galikowsi who played Robert Caplin (Freda’s Husband) had moments which were sharp and edgy and he moved around the stage with authority. His character also had a vulnerable side. His broken voice in places added to his hurt and despair. Mike is a wonderful actor who has a nice unassuming presence. Mike also portrayed elements of a very self-involved character in Robert and showed he had elements of a person who suffers greatly from other people’s remarks.
There is no way to truly know how your actions or words really affect a stranger or the lasting effect it has on somebody. So, Robert’s downfall when he stormed off at the end and “seemingly” shot himself was totally believable of a man who had taken too much on his shoulders and this evening was the last straw.
Gordon Whitehouse (played by a newcomer to NKP, Oliver Smith) and his wife Betty Whitehouse (the brilliant Chrissy Coleman) were absolutely intriguing to watch. Oliver had good diction and a nice unpredictability about him when he exploded with his outbursts. Chrissy Coleman is a very strong actor and impressively portrayed an effective presence throughout. Perfectly cast.
Sue Portsmouth who played Olwen Peel certainly pulled out a few surprises, of course she started the whole thing off with her comment about the cigarette box but then revealing it was her who was responsible for Martin’s manslaughter. In my short time as rep, I have seen Sue tackle some interesting roles and she is very talented and versatile.
Richard Delahaye who played Charles Stanton certainly had some idiosyncrasies and arrogance. It was a well-judged performance. The look he gave Gordon when he chose not to reveal some information at that precise moment was fantastic. Richard Delahaye portrayed Charles with a calm and calculated way. You were not 100% entirely sure what to think of him; yes, he stole £500 and let Martin take the blame for it, but he deliberately held back information until the time it was required, suggested that this is a man who has no conscious. I wondered if he only admitted what he did because he was backed into a corner. I held the impression he had a master plan to truly divert the rest of the attention away from him.
A special mention to Di McCann, the costumes were incredibly well thought out and the attention the detail was marvellous. Also, to Sam and Gail Allington and other members of NKP, the play was set in a drawing room and it was very stylish and carefully designed. It had a thought-provoking feeling adding to the sense of foreboding. It gave off a hint of “something not quite right”. Combined with the lights, it created a slight ominous feeling, an unsettling and an ambience which I can only compare to some of my favourite ghost stories. I imagined this room was part of a huge rich gothic home with many roaring fires. I could almost taste the whisky. The actors held their places within this environment with conviction and reacted beautifully to their surroundings. Congratulations must also go to Martin Ward who directed this great play. A great vision.
The next production NKP are planning on performing is Alan Ayckbourn’s “Time of My Life” which is planned for 24th-27th May 2023. This is another wonderful choice and I am sure NKP will have a lot of fun with this. NKP are holding a read through and open auditions in January 2023 for “Time of My Life”. Please get in touch for further details if you would like to come along. www.nkp.org.uk
Finally, thank you so much for your invitation and your kind hospitality tonight, I always feel very welcome when coming to see a show by NKP. They take great pride in their front of house and are such a big part of the community of Kinver. I was also very glad to hear that their matinee performance sold out. NKP decided to add an extra date for the first time and it was very successful.
NKP have achieved another unique and memorable evening of entertainment.
Until next time. “Well, that is that!”