Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Sleeping dogs reveal their secrets

IN dangerous company:  left to right, back row: James Weetman as Robert Caplan, Phil Astle as Charles Stanton, James Marlow Smith as Gordon Whitehouse; front row: Jean Wilde as Freda Caplan, Kate Campbell as Olwen Peel, and in her first appearance with Hall Green, Samantha Holden as Betty Whitehouse.

Dangerous Corner

Hall Green Little Theatre


TRUTH will out if you don't let sleeping dogs lie. This is the Priestley piece that prompts joined-up aphorisms and there's nothing to laugh about. 

Not that this deterred a first-night full-house audience that was clearly capable of laughing at anything. It would have been more fun reviewing the patrons than the excellent action on stage, but you can't win ۥem all. 

This was J B Priestley's first play, written in 1932, and while he might well have been nonplussed by its reception he would undoubtedly have been impressed by what Edward James Stokes's production has made of it. There's a violent death, there are broken hearts, there are recriminations. It's a morass of serious stuff in sundry forms – but that audience didn't seem to notice. Particularly in the first half, this was ho-ho-ho time. 

At one point, somebody says, “Is this your idea of a joke?” He should have asked the audience – but no, I really mustn't review the patrons. 

Two people bestride the production. James Weetman, as Robert, is a towering presence. Most of the time, he is an anguished soul; a powerful, large-lunged figure. His problem is that he's the kind of man who, faced with a smouldering fire, can't resist poking it with a stick. It is his insistence on probing further and further into a bygone tragedy that unveils a small world of lies and deceits, peopled by a mixed bag of largely unhappy citizens. 

One of them is his wife Freda, played by the evergreen Jean Wilde – purposeful of movement and a joy of clearly-spoken dialogue; a no-nonsense characterisation that bespeaks an iron will and takes no prisoners and yet produces one of the most realistic tearful episodes to have come my way. 

Christine Bland makes Miss Mockeridge a pleasing busybody and Phil Astle is Charles, an interesting study in wry, off-the-cuff remarks in the first half which becomes something pretty serious in the second. Kate Campbell (Olwen) and Samantha Holden (Betty) – a talented recent recruit who learned her trade with Birmingham youth group Stage 2 – offer attractive excellence and James Marlow-Smith scores decisively as the anguished Gordon. 

It's well worth a visit – and future audiences can't possibly contain as many hyenas as the first one. 

To 28.05.11. 

John Slim 

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