Watching a well-made thriller played straight and as its author intended is an enjoyable way to pass an evening. Francis Durbridge was a master of the craft and his 1987 A Touch of Danger demonstrates this. What's more, 20 years on there are elements which appear, horrendously, to be of our own time.
We’re in a smart London flat. It's smart, because its owner is a well-to-do novelist. It's a flat and not a house, because he's going though a chaotic divorce. What's more, there's a teenage daughter caught up in the separation proceedings. Oh, and there’s also his indispensable secretary, adept at fending off inconvenient callers and soothing estranged partners and stroppy daughters.
Well, that's how it appears. But then the writer is apparently involved in an incident in Munich and some very odd characters start coming - and going. I won't spoil the story for you if you don't already know the play, but it’s all very cleverly plotted with some uncomfortable reminders that some nastinesses never disappear completely. They simply mutate.
Director Ian Dickens has assembled a strong cast. Simon Ward as novelist Max Telligan has a field day playing a self-contained and self-satisfied man of letters who isn’t perhaps as shrewd in personal relations and character assessments as he thinks. It's a characterisation which commands the audience's attention without overtly appealing for its sympathy.
He's matched by two well-contrasted female performances. Sandra Dickinson is Harriet, the twittery wife finding difficulty in adapting to life alone, but who has a streak of common sense which can surprise herself as much as those around her. A woman who likes safe cars as well as flowery fabrics.
No floral prints for Liz Robertson as the "perfect" secretary. A smart dresser, a good typist and someone who has skills and passions which take other people by surprise. There’s competence in the character and it’s matched by the authority of the performer. Every word counts; every gesture and every step. Until, that is, until the false one.
Some of the other visitors to Max's flat are not at all quite what they seem. There's dependable Graham Digby (Neil Stacey), burly Lloyd Mitchell (Mark McKerracher) and limping Vincent Crane (Michael Kirk). Jeff Seago (Ben Joiner) is a golf professional with an eye for the ladies and a way with a club. Connie Palmer (Polly Smith, at the performance I attended) is a butterfly still attached to a hard chrysalis.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage)