Our upcoming performance; J.B. Priestley’s Dangerous Corner is often described as a timeless classic. In his latest blog, Patrick Isherwood contemplates why this story has endured the test of time so successfully as well as some of the not so timeless elements of the play.
Some things J.B Priestley’s play Dangerous Corner was first performed in 1932, shortly after it was written. It wasn’t an immediate success but with financial support from the author it took off, particularly in America where it was also made into a film.
The central premise concerns the perils of conversations taking a particular turn, which would have been avoided had the protagonists had any idea of where it might lead. The themes, infidelity, deceit, lust and dishonesty are commonplace enough today and when reading the play it is difficult not to do so through a modern prism. What would have shocked the audience in 1932 is still shocking in its way but inevitably the impact is different. Attitudes have changed.
The dichotomy between the long-lost world in which Dangerous Corner is set and today’s world presents challenges to the director and actors alike. Should one ask the characters to speak in the clipped manner of the time, a device which could help to convey the buttoned-up attitudes of the time, or in a normal, modern way? To go down the authenticity route risks the play becoming a parody, comedic where it is intended to be dramatic. It also requires complete adherence to the older cadences of speech, a demanding discipline that is fraught with potential traps. On balance it is probably best-avoided.
While there are anachronisms in the text – for example you can’t get away with using the word ‘gay’ in its original context any more – the play is not mired in the past. Good plays are timeless and Priestley explores dilemmas and truths which are just as relevant today as when he wrote the play.
Little Gaddesden Drama Club’s production of Dangerous Corner will run from 21st – 24th November at Little Gaddesden Village Hall with pre-theatre supper at the Bridgewater Arms. Click here for booking information.