A psychological mystery in 1940s upper class England – rife with red herrings, remonstration, confession, and dissolution.
Gathered in the country drawing room of Freda and Robert Caplan (Susan Fleetwood and David Robb) are their “snug little group” of friends, Olwen Peel (Sarah Badel), Freda’s contemporary; the younger Betty (Judi Bowker), and her husband, Gordon Whitehouse (Daniel Day-Lewis), and bachelor Charles Stanton (Anthony Valentine). Most of them work for the same publishing firm. Novelist Miss Mockridge (Elvie Hall), a first time guest, rounds out participants in unwitting, after dinner events.
While the men withdraw for brandy and smoking, the ladies listen to part of a wireless play called The Sleeping Dog. We come in at the tail end. A gun goes off, a woman screams. The women decide that its title refers to the truth, something in short supply. Olwen comments, “truth is about as dangerous as coming around a corner at 60. I Think telling the real truth, with nothing missing wouldn’t be dangerous…but what most people hear is partial… treacherous stuff.”
The men return. A casual question from Miss Mockridge reveals that Robert’s brother, Martin, is absent because he shot himself some months ago. Friends (and family) remember him as the kind of extraordinarily charming man one can forgive anything and is often forced to do just that. At the start, it seems as if everyone agrees, but we slowly learn each person had a very different relationship with and opinion of Martin.
Freda offers cigarettes from a case that plays a tune. No one has seen it before. The hostess says it was among Martin’s things. How he acquired it and who saw it in his cottage and when leads the assembled down a path of small lies which expand as we watch. Until she exits, the novelist tears at several frayed stories like a cat. Then others dive in. Was Martin alone the day and evening of his death? Why did he commit suicide?
A second connected issue that rises is the theft of five hundred pounds from the firm. It was assumed that Martin took it, though other suspicions are raised. As partial truths tie together, secret relationships – requited and un -are revealed, many to shock and dismay. The sleeping dog rises.
Acting is uniformly excellent. The production looks great. Direction is pitch perfect. Figuring this out is like peeling an attractive onion.
Opening photo Courtesy of BroadwayHD: Susan Fleetwood, Daniel Day-Lewis, David Robb
Dangerous Corner by J.B. Priestley
Produced by the BBC in 1983
Directed by James Omerod