dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Friendship turns sour when the truth is out
It all starts so seemingly well. A group of old friends and business partners spending an evening together. They all seem so close that their one outsider, novelist Miss Mockridge, even talks about them as a snug group.
And yet in J B Priestley's suspense masterpiece we discover that this group of individuals are not quite as 'snug' as it appears.
In fact as the evening progresses we discover there is very little 'snugness' about the group at all.
The unravelling begins with a slip of the tongue and then one truth leads to another until the characters are exposed in all their faults – deceit on top of deceit.
One of Priestley's talents is this gradual unveiling of faults. Questions of responsibility, of blame, of innocence stack up – and nobody remains untarnished.
A strong cast help keep the slick pace. Colin Buchanan is the host Robert Caplan who forces the truth out of his guests even when it is to be his own destruction. Finty Williams is his wife Freda who pushes the story forward.
Michael Praed as Charles Stanton moves from a disinterested onlooker to a key part of the puzzle while the initially calm Olwen Peel, played by Kim Thomson, proves to be anything but calm when pushed to extremes.
Loving couple Betty and Gordon Whitehouse (Lauren Drummond and Matt Milne) make up the rest of the group and are just as untrustworthy.
Directed by Michael Attenborough and produced by Bill Kenwright, this is a smooth production which feels well-rehearsed. All the characters are at home in their roles – so much so that we all feel a part of the drawing room drama.
Gary McCann's art nouveau set design is the backdrop but also provides plenty of space for the characters to pace around, look out of windows, grab onto sofa arms and generally make use of the furniture.
It all makes for easy and intriguing watching – with a good many surprises.
The 15 minute interval is a good opportunity to eavesdrop on other audience members as they all try to work out the cunning plot twists. The amount of different theories I heard goes to show why this play has remained one of Priestley's most popular works.