Review: Dangerous Corner, Bury St Edmunds

Review: Dangerous Corner by JB Priestley, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, until March 19.

Best known for An Inspector Calls, JB Priestley is a master of peeling away the layers of the lives of outwardly successful, happy people to reveal the canker beneath.

Dangerous Corner is a brilliant example of his skill.

To describe too much would be to ruin an intricate but very accessible plot and to unmask too soon characters who seem too good to be true.

Shock upon shock produces gasps, laughs and stunned silences from audience and characters alike.

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Director Colin Blumenau’s production is hard to fault, though I admit to not having seen Dangerous Corner staged before and therefore have no yardstick against which to judge it.

If entertainment value is any measure, I was hanging on every word, twist and action, interrogating every cigarette lit, drink poured and facial tick for clues.

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It all starts as three wealthy couples gather after dinner for a few drinks in an upmarket part of town. The note-perfect cast are the same actors who last month staged an enjoyable Much Ado About Nothing and they do a good job with what is a beautifully constructed piece by the master of social deconstruction.

The play revolves largely around the excellent James Wallace as Robert Caplan, a publishing boss mourning the death by suicide of his brother Martin a year earlier. He has a superb foil in wife Freda (Polly Lister) and meets his match in Charles Stanton (Nicholas Tizzard) and Gordon Whitehouse (Ben Deery).

The action begins with something as innocent as a chance remark about a musical cigarette case.

One by one the layers are removed, leaving just Olwen (Suzanne Ahmet) and frail, innocent Betty (Ellie Kirk) seeming as if they will emerge unscathed.

Themes of truth and lies, love - imagined and real, idealistic and unrequited - greed and the stories people tell themselves to get through another day, make for a play that manages to combine social satire and universal comments on the human condition with a decent whodunnit.

The final ten minutes, in particular, are an absolutely horrifying but compelling, irony-drenched pleasure to watch.

Mark Crossley

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