“I’m living among illusions,” intones Robert Caplan (Nick Smith), solemnly contemplating what might have been, as this brooding tale wends towards its finale. He and his wife Freda (Gillian Somerscales) have been entertaining guests at their home; all seems well until a passing remark about a cigarette box triggers a series of revelations, reminiscences and recriminations connected to the suicide of Robert’s more dashing brother Martin.
The play – whose director, Joe O’Connor, is usually seen on stage – takes place entirely in a drawing room, decorated in typically attractive Bartholomew Players style by set designer Steve Ashcroft. A radio hisses and crackles in the background, relaying a murder mystery, before the tone darkens; the characters in the Caplans’ home are in some sense entwined with this narrative. Above all, Dangerous Corner is about the parallel universes that hinge on decisions taken and words said – or left unsaid, in the interests of ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’.
There’s plenty to ponder, although the rapid and acrimonious exchanges about the absent Martin aren’t always easy to follow. But the cast all do the material justice, putting in plenty of energy. No more so than Ianto Wain, as the blustering company director Gordon Whitehouse; Gareth Hammond is by turns nonchalant and cynical as his wry colleague Charles Stanton; Players newcomer Elaine Leggett, as Gordon’s wife Betty, conveys a rather fetching air of naivety that is later revealed to be a facade. Sara Miller is enigmatic and noble as spinster Olwen Peel, while Liz Hutchinson is, as ever, impish and gleeful as novelist Maud Mockridge.
It may sound intellectually heavyweight, but for all the terse dialogue and daring – in 1932 – references to drug addiction and homosexuality, the play is accessible enough. And although it begins by looking and sounding like a standard whodunit, the drama closes on a decidedly jolly note.