The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
Dangerous Corner by J.B. Priestley
Director Bill Dow Set and Costume Design Alison Green Lighting Design Gerald King Sound Design Michael Kidder Stage Manager Jan Hodgson
Dates and Venue 1 - 22 May 2010 @ 8:00pm | The Vancouver Playhouse
Reviewer Jane Penistan
'Dangerous Corner' is the first of J.B.Priestley’s plays. It was written when theories about time were much discussed in contemporary writing. It was also an era when experiments with drugs were being practiced by those who could afford the illegal imports. The Depression was a harsh and cruel reality in much of the country, particularly in the north, but this play is set in the south of England, in the environment of a comfortable, reasonably prosperous, family publishing business, though for some of the characters the possibility of unemployment was an unpleasant but unmentioned fear.
There was no television and radio was somewhat unreliable. The age of radio drama was in its infancy, but already making an impact on listeners. Dancing at home to either the radio dance band broadcasts or to gramophone records was a common recreation among young adults. The latest steps were avidly learnt from magazines and instruction books and practiced wherever there was space.
Bill Dow opened the play with the radio playing a popular song to which the company are dancing and singing. After this overture the play begins and this time the women of the cast are revealed listening to the closing scene of a radio drama, “Let Sleeping Dogs” and the sound of a gunshot.
During the course of the evening family secrets, infidelity and accusations are aired, tempers flair, and revelations bring some relief from the mounting tension. There are surprises in the confessional revelations of the company secretary, Olwen Peel, perceptively played by Anna Galvin and shock at the disclosures made by the company’s business manager, Charles Stanton, performed with great understanding of his character’s position by Tom Scholte.
As always, Jennifer Clement, is an elegant and sophisticated hostess and wife, in the person of Freda Caplan, married to the excitable and truth hunting Robert Caplan (Vincent Gale), now head of the publishing firm. After Robert thinks that all the sins of omission and commission have been discovered, there is still one more scene to come. Betty, the wife of Robert’s hysterical young brother–in-law, Gordon (Charlie Gallant), proclaims herself as anything but an innocent young bride, but as a hard bitten, intriguing woman. Anastasia Phillips, carries this off with great aplomb.
An outsider in the person of Miss Mockridge, an author and client of the publishing firm, is seen in the beginning in the first and closing scenes of the play. Miss Mockridge (Christine Willes) presents the public view of the private, turbulent family company.
At the end we are back to the act I opening scene and the end of the broadcast play and all is as it was – or is it?
Beautifully dressed by Alison Green, and with a complicated set, Bill Dow directs the production with mounting tension to its climax. The deceleration back into the opening tempo is soothingly smooth. Have we just “slumbered here / While these shadows did appear?”
© 2010 Jane Penistan