Theatre reviews by Basil Abbott
Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds
J.B. Priestley was the kingpin of pre-war theatre; and the strength and stay of post-war amateurs, until replaced in their affections by Ayckbourn.
There have been revivals since the National Theatre’s epic An Inspector Calls – rather like adapting a Biggles book in the style of Saving Private Ryan.
Dangerous Corner is partly a time-slip play, a worm-in-the-bud play and a whodunnit, using the tin-types of English murder stories.
It even begins with a shot in the dark; and has characters saying what a fool they have been.
Passions smoulder beneath wing-collared 1930s propriety; and skeletons come crashing out of the cupboard.
We have all known life-changing moments caused by a remark; so there is a serious, truthful side to it within the conventions of murder mystery.
Colin Blumenau’s production is acted and mounted with great style, like an advert for De Resque Minors, and a feeling that the Thirties would end in tears.
It was good to see our very own Mark Finbow credited as Assistant Director.
(Ends 19 March.)
The Signalman & Other Ghostly Tales
Common Ground Theatre Co
Diss Corn Hall
Apart from A Christmas Carol, Dickens’ short stories are largely dire and unreadable.
The Signalman is an exception, written a year after he had been in a train crash which deeply shocked him.
There was also the potential scandal of him being with his mistress at the time.
The story proved a grand guignol opener to this Dickens evening, written and directed by Julian Harries and Pat Whymark.
Patrick Marlowe, as the troubled signalman and many other parts, showed a warm depth of character and presence.
Julian Harries is an actor of knowing humour, with a relish for wild-eyed Gothic, qualities well-suited to Dickens.
I had not come across The Hanged Man’s Bride or The Queer Chair before. But played by those actors, Alfred Harries, Madeleine Cooke and Nicholas Agnew, the stories had a macabre comedy no doubt true to the originals.
The Chimes, a rather drab story with one magical description of the belfry spirits (here omitted), improved greatly in dramatisation.
It was one that the author liked to read aloud; and the theme of it’s the poor what gets the blame, still seemed timely.
Knave or Not? – Too Hot to Handle?
Bury St. Edmunds
What seemed subversive in the 18th century can now seem as innocuous as The Chalk Garden.
But, with the establishment in a twitch about revolutionary movements, speeches against corruption were deemed dangerous.
Thomas Holcroft, a contemporary and fellow traveller of Thomas Paine, was a playwright considered as seditious as the Rights of Man author.
Bury Theatre’s actors were at the Guildhall again, directed by Abigail Anderson, for another Script-in-Hand session.
What we see is the work of a day, the actors having no more than that to prepare. But they read so well that you wonder what the production would be like after a few weeks.
The play has the bombast, bustle and ferment of the 18th century (two of the characters are called Sir Job and Lady Ferment), the wit and wisdom.
It is hard to believe that it fell foul of censorship, was hissed and booed, caused a public outcry and had many offending passages removed.
The Scrip-in-Hand evenings are well worth attending. Look out for others on 17 March and 14 April.