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Dangerous Corner (Bury St Edmunds)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This is the earliest of the three plays in which J B Priestley explored coincidences and time-shifting. The characters are poised between two cataclysmic events – the two world wars – yet in 1932 seem neither affected by the one nor perturbed by what will lead up to the second. They are members of a family-owned popular and prosperous publishing house and, at the start of act one, are entertaining one of their authors.

The dangerous corner which gives the play its title, and round which six of the seven people we meet hurtle in a sequence of ever-increasingly damaging revelations, is fenced on one side by a musical box and on the other by a fitfully-receiving wireless. Colin Blumenau’s production takes the play seriously and allies naturalism to a sort of filmic intensity, so that Emma Chapman’s overall lighting dims from time to time to concentrate its focus on one particular person as he – but more often, she – launches into an accusation or exculpation.

Wearing the gorgeous bias-cut satin evening dresses of the period, Suzanne Ahmet’s Olwen, as intense as the hills and valleys suggested by her Christian name, Ellie Kirk’s preening kitten Betty and Polly Listers scarlet-swathed, marcel-waved Freda dominate the proceedings. Around them circle the men – Nicholas Tizzard as Charles, insecure under his bluster, James Wallace as Robert (Freda’s husband), for whom right so quickly becomes shadowed by a twist of wrongs, and Ben Deery as Gordon, Betty’s tormented husband.

Designer Libby Watson gives us a stylish drawing-room interior around whose formal chairs and settles the actors coalesce in groups and then flow back into individual poses. It’s a bit like fashion illustrations in the Vogue magazines of the play’s period; the artificiality adorns through a subtle distortion of its apparent realism. Te one element which jarred for me was Lynn Whitehead’s Miss Mockridge. Surely a best-selling novelist would have brought evening clothes when staying with well-to-do friends?