Dangerous Corner, Shelley Theatre

FOR the second of their four plays in summer season, the London Repertory Players have been assigned a tough challenge – and they rose to it.

Until Tuesday, the stage at the Shelley Theatre was given over to The Murder Game, set in 1970s Dorking.

With a bit of an overhaul, the set became by Thursday night the drawing room of a country retreat, the setting for JB Priestley’s 1932 thriller.

When the action begins, four elegantly dressed women have left the men of their party to their brandy and cigars while they begin the small-talk. After the three men join them, a chance remark about a musical cigarette box leads the conversation in an unexpected direction.

This gathering turns out to be haunted by the memory of an eighth character, who died of a gunshot wound, and as the evening wears on, relationships and certainties unravel drastically.

It is a complex play, with every character hiding something that is coaxed or bullied out of them. The performance, under director Vernon Thompson, is suitably intense, relieved only by the odd intentional laugh as the revelations become more startling.

It’s hard to single out performances in this ensemble piece, but Al Wadlan, Kirsty Cox and Barbara Dryhurst ably put across some of the biggest dramatic moments. Nikki Kelly, known from TV’s Hi-De-Hi, has a small but delicious role as dinner guest who can’t help but stir the pot.

The fact that the small Shelley Theatre was filled with particularly loud applause as the curtain fell was confirmation that this production had kept the audience gripped.