Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Players think it ‘time’ to revisit Priestley’s debut

Players think it ‘time’ to revisit Priestley’s debut

A THIRTIES stage drama that helped inspire the film Sliding Doors is coming to the Kenton Theatre next week courtesy of the Henley Players.

For its autumn production the group has chosen JB Priestley’s first play, Dangerous Corner.

A successful novelist before he was a dramatist, Priestley is today best remembered for his 1945 play An Inspector Calls.

Revived by the National Theatre in 1992 to huge acclaim, it has now been seen by more than four million people worldwide, making it the longest running revival of a play in history.

A spokesman for the Henley Players said: “Like Dangerous Corner, it was one of a series of Priestley’s so-called ‘time plays’. These well-crafted pieces each dealt with a different concept of time as a theatrical device.

Dangerous Corner, which captivated audiences, was Priestley’s first play and a worldwide success at the time. The fact it is so often still performed is testament to the writing.”

The play opens with publishers Robert and Freda Caplan hosting a dinner at their country retreat.

The evening is winding down when a chance remark by one of the guests ignites a series of devastating revelations, revealing a hitherto undiscovered tangle of clandestine relationships and dark secrets, the disclosure of which have tragic consequences.

The Henley Players spokesman added: “The initially cosy setting of this classic thriller soon becomes a hotbed of accusations as a discussion over a cigarette box leads unexpectedly to the opening of a Pandora’s box — causing various twists and turns to cascade out before the box is firmly shut. Full of secrets, lies and clandestine relationships, the play’s revelations enthral until the final reveal.”

Dangerous Corner is directed by Mike Huntington, whose previous projects with the Henley Players include The Entertainer, Comic Potential, The Country Wife and The Playboy of the Western World.

He said: “Dangerous Corner is spun around lies and half-truths which the characters have sought to hide, but as each lie is exposed each character has to reveal hidden secrets. What may start as an innocent white lie may be exposed to reveal darker undertakings until the truth emerges. But is anyone better off for knowing?

“Telling the truth is as dangerous as skidding around a corner at 60 miles per hour, and in this case perhaps the time lapse is also seeking truth. All it takes is an innocent after-dinner remark to set off a train of events just like a Greek drama, when all has already occurred but no one is aware of how they have affected their lives.

“This play has given me great pleasure in directing as the actors pick their way through a spider’s web of deceit until the final truth is revealed for each.”

One of the central characters in Priestley’s drama is Charles Stanton, an employee of the Caplans’ independent publishing house. He is portrayed by Henley Players regular Tim Harling, who has been enjoying rehearsals ahead of opening night on Wednesday (October 16).

“For two and a half hours a week, I don’t think about my work but my role in the play,” he says. “I can have a really fun time and it goes a long way to redress the work-life balance.”

Tim first started acting while at school, thanks to an English teacher who spotted some hidden talent.

His passion for the stage went on the back burner while at university but was reignited a few years later when he saw that a local group was staging the musical Oh, What a Lovely War! — in which he had starred during his schooldays.

It was through his return to acting that he met and later married his wife Gráinne. A fellow Henley Players regular, she has also been cast in Dangerous Corner.

How does Tim go about getting to grips with his character?

“We have done some work in rehearsals and have been encouraged to watch the film Sliding Doors,” he says. “The plot is not connected to the play, but the story does have its roots in the concept JB Priestley first used here.” As for what will happen when the drama unfolds, he adds: “I play Charles — someone who would much rather let sleeping dogs lie, which funnily enough is what is playing on the radio as the play begins.

“When the radio loses station and no one can find a station for them to listen to, the dinner party starts to examine the events around the apparent suicide of young Martin Caplan. On the other hand, Robert Caplan is someone who believes the truth should all be aired whatever.

“The play revolves around what happens when Robert gets his wish and the truth comes slowly out. As for that twist at the end, well, you’ll just have to come and see.”

Dangerous Corner is playing at the Kenton Theatre until Saturday, October 19. Evening performances start at 7.30pm and there is a matinée at 2.30pm on the Saturday. Tickets are £13, with concessions available. For more information and to book, call (01491) 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk

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