We quickly learn that a man called Martin had died some months previous. A set of family and business related people spend an evening together, and while smoking and drinking they are slowly revealing bitter secrets and connections they had made in and around the knowing, and, in some cases, the loving of, Martin.
Not long in we are suddenly keen to realise the circumstances surrounding Martin’s death, and the interest and intrigue, on the part of the audience, is to see how characters fit around this sad fact. This is the thing that grabs you early on. Nevertheless, this is not a revengeful crime thriller in a traditional sense. The revelations that come about are not Detective led. The play is fairly slow paced and tension does not really feature. Comedy is allowed to rise up, and, yes, it is most definitely a mystery, but it is the superb structure of the piece, by Priestley, that is the thing to applaud, because, at the play’s end, it has reverted to the point where it first began and we can’t quite imagine how the playwright has achieved it.
I often wonder why it is that the chat between people engaging in drawing room conversation is always in turn and talk is never interrupted or ruled by one or two over-bearing individuals. While others are never seen to almost be bursting out of themselves or their seats to have their say. I wish there was a little less of this kind of staged interaction and reaction when setting social scenes of those sharing decadent lifestyles between the wars. Nevertheless, this is indeed an intelligent, professional exercising of the genre and I acknowledge this style is very popular with audiences still, and although the storyline builds and builds from the first mention that Martin had killed himself to arrive almost full circle by the end; the play is simplistic in many respects. I have never seen, however, a ‘time play’ to work and wheedle its way through its plot so tenuously and cleverly as this one does.
Freda Caplan – FINTY WILLIAMS
Betty Whitehouse – LAUREN DRUMMOND
Olwen Peel – KIM THOMSON
Charles Stanton – MICHAEL PRAED
Robert Caplan – COLIN BUCHANAN
Gordon Whitehouse – MATT MILNE
Miss Mockridge – ROSIE ARMSTRONG
Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall, who attended press night at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, on Monday 03 November.
Photography by Robert Day