Dangerous Corner by the Lichfield Players
Lichfield Garrick Studio Theatre
Tuesday 27 August 2022
Theatre Review by Jono Oates
After the joyful exuberance of Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert, my second visit to the Garrick Theatre in a fortnight was to a less pulsating, but still very watchable, performance, this time the play Dangerous Corner, written by the noted mystery playwright of the 1930s and 40s, JB Priestley, performed by the Lichfield Players in the studio theatre of the Garrick.
The play was the first solo play written by British novelist John Boynton (JB) Priestley in 1932. A Hollywood film of the play was made in 1934 and it has been performed on stage countless times since it was first performed, 90 years ago. Priestley’s most famous play was, undoubtedly, An Inspector Calls, written in 1946, a drama focusing on the suicide of a family member and Dangerous Corner is very much in the same style, and with the same topic.
The two-act play is set in one location, the drawing room of the country house of Robert Caplan, head of a publishing firm, and his wife Freda. Their guests for the evening are middle-aged Charles Stanton, a partner in the firm, and another partner, younger man Gordon Whitehouse and his wife Betty. Also present are Olwen Peel, also employed by Caplan, and, finally, a local writer, Miss Maud Mockridge. After they have enjoyed dinner, the women have been listening to a radio play, The Sleeping Dog, and they are then joined by the male partners. They all seem in high spirits and, as well as being work colleagues, they all appear to be close friends, enjoying each other’s company. However, a chance remark about a standard household item sets off a chain of events, with accusations, recriminations and confessions, all linked to the recent suicide of Robert’s brother Martin, who had shot himself in the middle of the night. The atmosphere within the group suddenly changes, and their friendships are soon pushed to breaking point, as it appears that Martin’s suicide may not have been quite what it seemed. The long, and fraught, evening comes to a shocking, and devasting end when it appears that there may well be a killer in the group. But was Martin’s death suicide…or murder…and if it was murder…then just who is the killer…and will they strike again?
The Lichfield Players are one of the most long-standing, and respected, amateur dramatic groups in Lichfield District, and their latest production is a perfect fit for them, as well as for the venue itself. An experienced cast are ideally suited to their roles and the action rattles along at a finely-balanced pace, keeping the audience (nearly a full house on opening night) entertained, baffled, and amused throughout. Richard Clarke plays the blustering, domineering Robert Caplan, initially intrigued to discover the truth about the mystery, later regretting it, his wife Freda is played with easy grace by Sarah Stanley. Peter Carrington-Porter is Charles Stanton, the man who appears to know all the answers, without divulging them all, a nicely menacing and malevolent performance. Husband and wife team Robin and Hannah Lewitt play husband and wife Betty and Gordon Whitehouse. Robin plays the vulnerable, and emotionally unstable, Gordon, displaying an effective blend of moral outrage and sensitivity as the man who appears to love someone else other than his own wife. Hannah plays Betty as the sweet, pretty and engaging wife of Gordon, although later revealing that she is perhaps not the innocent naïve that she appears to be. The ever-dependable Fiona Willimott is the loyal employee Olwen, who although a spinster, also has her sights set on the objective of her desires. Fiona usually takes comedic roles but here reveals her versality in a much more dramatic role, showing her angst, loneliness and desperation as the target of her affections appears oblivious to her true feelings. Finally, Maureen George is wonderful as the gossipy, be-fuddled, and meddling fiction writer, Miss Mockridge, delivering some classic one-liners, I have seen her in several roles similar to this and she is always good fun, and very watchable.
This play really draws you in as it develops, and as each dramatic revelation is revealed, you find yourself concentrating more and more, trying to work out what the mystery is, who was involved and of course ‘who-dun-it’…or…’who-didn’t-dun-it’. The reveal at the end of Act One is superb, and resulted in a loudly-audible ‘GASP!’ from the whole of the audience, something that rarely happens! The final scenes are also a classic, one that I definitely won’t reveal, but created real talking-points as we all filed out of the theatre.
Direction was by the very experienced Phil Shaw who, oddly enough, had also directed the Players’ version of Dangerous Corner before…twenty-nine years ago in 1993! Presumably he didn’t have to rehearse all the stage directions but remembered them all by heart…
Set design was by Andrew Bodger, costumes by Jo Barnes, lighting and sound by Ian Davies, and all of them created an atmospheric, and nostalgic, recreation of a 1930s, middle-upper-class country house, evoking images of Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple, helped by interludes of classic songs form the era, and also by a spinking of antiques, loaned from the Lichfield Antiques Centre on Minster Pool.
I thoroughly enjoyed this murder / suicide / mystery / dram from the pen of one of the finest playwrights of the 20th century, and my top-tip is set as close to the stage as you can. You are then very much part of the performance and you can see the expressions of the actors up-close.
Finally, what has the Sleeping Dog got to do with a Dangerous Corner…well to discover that particular secret you will have to book a couple of seats this week to find out!
Dangerous Corner by the Lichfield Players is on until Saturday 1 October 2022 at the Lichfield Garrick studio theatre, performances start at 7.45pm and there is also a matinee performance at 2.45pm on Saturday 1 October. Approximate running time of two hours, including a 20-minute interval. Ticket prices start from £16 and can booked by visiting the Garrick Box Office during normal opening times, by ringing 01543 412121 or by booking online at: