Hampstead Players 2016 Spring Production
5th and 6th February 2016
Oscar Wilde once said "if one tells the truth, one is sure sooner or later to be found out". The ambiguity of whether to lie or not to lie is dramatised by Priestley to perfection. Many consider this his best work - superior to the much lauded "An Inspector Calls". While the latter was fine as a piece of political and social commentary, Dangerous Corner is universal. For those who appreciate such things, it's a highly entertaining suspense thriller - but more than that. Through twists and turns it combines, drama, mystery, tragedy and comedy - and has an enigma wrapped in a philosophical conundrum. It's also psychological, pitting despair against hope. Thrown into the mix is a hint of the supernatural/metaphysical. In short, it is everything you want from theatre and works on many levels - all taking place in one living room.
The place is nearby- a house in Church Row, Hampstead. The time is November 1963 - two days after Kennedy's assassination. Young Martin Caplan was shot through the head a year ago - verdict: suicide. And now something disturbs the ether. A snug affluent group of publishers are relaxing after dinner - but all is not as it seems. The radio has stopped working - and when the late Martin's musical cigarette box is opened and plays "Liebestraum", a terrifying evening of revelation follows, watched by the unseen ghost of Martin. Why does the group seem compelled to tell the truth? Is it co-incidence? How does a cigarette box turn an innocent game into a nightmare? Our snug group is cut off from the world as Martin's brother Robert relentlessly plays the role of inspector. Like a car with no brakes, he'll go round every bend until he discovers everything. Can anyone stop him? Or will time reveal a truth of its own?
Priestley wrote what came to be known as 'Time' plays. Dangerous Corner stands out as the prototype and is his most timeless. He did several versions, the original Dangerous Corner being completed in 1932. It should not be underestimated how shocking the play was when it hit both the London and Broadway stages; so much in fact that a film version eliminated all revelations of casual affairs, drugs and homosexuality.
In an interpretative spirit, this version is set in 1963 - a time when murder still carried the death penalty and homosexuality was illegal. The early 1960s sit nicely on the fence, combining a residue of pre-war values with the turbulence and liberalism just round the corner. That it was also the year of Kennedy's assassination casts a typical Priestley shadow - our characters attempt to preserve their illusions - but the world’s innocence will be lost after a corner turned in Dallas.
Robert Caplan: age 30-40 a director of a publishing company. The play's tragic protagonist, his relationship to truth is that of a moth to flame. His late brother Martin's musical cigarette box turns him into the inspector who must know the truth at any price, though he is least able to face it.
Freda Caplan: 30-40 heir to the publishing firm and Robert's wife. Her relationship with Martin is only the first of many shocks for Robert.
Gordon Whitehouse: 20-30 Freda's younger brother and also a director. His relationship with Martin will shock both Robert and Freda.
Betty Whitehouse: 20-30 Gordon's wife. Robert has a crush with her. She represents for him the last word on innocence, purity and truthfulness. What could possibly go wrong?
Charles Stanton: 40-60 the third director. Of working class origins and with shady connections, he is something of an outsider. The opposite of Robert, he is best able to handle the truth but recommends keeping it hidden. That he could have stolen some money from the firm is only part of what he's concealing.
Olwen Peel: 30-50 Works for the firm. She has much to hide, especially from herself. Secretly in love with Robert and unresponsive to Stanton. The most intellectual of the group, she has good reason to understand how dangerous truth is.
Mockridge: 40-80 a novelist, self-styled gossip and unwelcome guest. Like a vulture, Mockridge wills Robert on to reveal as much as possible. Everyone else is waiting for Mockridge to leave. (The smaller character role can be gender reversed)
Martin Caplan: 20-30 Robert's dead younger brother. As in life, Martin is nothing but trouble. His spirit emerges when the cigarette box first plays. As revelations follow, Martin will appear unseen. Not just a spirit from the past, he is like the ghost of a future age of disillusion and lost innocence. (A non-speaking but recurring prominent part)