The lid of a very large can of worms is prised off on stage at The Theatre Royal, Windsor, this week, a can of worms so wriggly and inter-tangled that it would keep the average fisherman supplied with bait for years to come.

It's all metaphorically speaking, of course. No creatures were harmed in the making of this play.

The production in question is J B Priestley's Dangerous Corner, an intriguing piece of theatre that first saw the light of day in 1932. It was the author's first work for the stage, appearing three years after his hugely-successful book The Good Companions and written, according to Priestley himself, within the space of a week.

This new version, which opened at Windsor this week, remains true to the original. It's set in the Thirties and played out amid a thoroughly realistic-looking art deco drawing room, so skillfully created that  from floor to ceiling it appears to have been in situ for decades.

Dangerous Corner is numbered among Priestley's 'time plays', works which rely on scenes of alternative reality to those initially presented to the audience.

Director Michael Attenborough
Director Michael Attenborough
 

So has the play itself stood the test of time? Priestley admitted it was not one of his personal favourites and there are obvious indications that this was the work of a writer still learning his craft.

After the opening of the aforementioned 'can of worms' or, to be more precise, a musical cigarette box, the plot veers towards the absurd at times, with so many sordid revelations about the private lives of the various well-to-do characters on stage that, eventually, if one of them had claimed to be the King's secret lovechild, no one would have batted an eyelid.

To be fair, Dangerous Corner was very much ahead of its time and attracted a great deal of attention in its early days for its inclusion of references to homosexuality, drug-taking and infidelity, subjects rarely mentioned in theatrical productions of the Thirties. There are even a couple of four letter outbursts, though not of the f-word variety, those of a nervous disposition will be pleased to hear.

The cast, and director Michael Attenborough, make an excellent job of reviving a play that has been overlooked in recent times. The performances provide gripping viewing and the actors never veer from the sincerity of their roles, even when the plot starts to become slightly preposterous.

Michael Praed, once a massively-popular TV Robin Hood, is unrecognisable from the long-haired heart-throb of 30 or so years ago. Moustachioed and with meticulously slicked back hair, he appears every inch the typical pre-war dinner-jacketed toff.

Left to Right Finty Williams (Freda Caplan), Kim Thomas (Olwen Peel) and Michael Praed (Charles Stanton) rehearsing for Dangerous Corner
Left to Right Finty Williams (Freda Caplan), Kim Thomas (Olwen Peel) and Michael Praed (Charles Stanton) rehearsing for Dangerous Corner
 

Colin Buchanan, well-known from TV's Dalziel and Pasco, is splendidly attired in velvet evening jacket and is the 'lynchpin' of the evening around whom most of the action rotates. He gives a realistic portrayal of a proud man faced with his cosy world being smashed to pieces.

Finty Williams as his wife is equally believable as she too reveals a shocking secret. Kim Thompson, Lauren Drummond and Matt Milne deserve equal praise for their interpretations of similarly-troubled characters. The cast is completed by Rosie Armstrong who, as authoress Miss Mockridge, watches awestruck as the early stages of the family revelations are revealed.

The intricacies of the plot demand full attention from the audience in order to keep abreast of the plot. Unfortunately, mine was diverted at a crucial stage of the proceedings by at least two people in nearby seats attempting to extract the very last remnant of ice cream from cartons with noisy scrapings of plastic spoons. Perhaps the time has come to ban the consumption of such items once the interval has passed, particularly during such engrossing dramas.

As the play progressed  the audience seemed to be prepared to laugh out loud at some of the pronouncements and there was even an over-the-top gasp at one of the more startling revelations. Quite whether this was how Priestley meant his play to be received is open to conjecture.

Michael Praed (Charles Stanton) and Lauren Drummond (Betty Whitehouse) rehearsing for Dangerous Corner
Michael Praed (Charles Stanton) and Lauren Drummond (Betty Whitehouse) rehearsing for Dangerous Corner
 

Despite the slight absurdities of the plot, this is still a hugely-entertaining and intriguing evening's entertainment with a quite brilliantly-staged ending.

Incidentally, excited whispers rippled round the theatre at the beginning of the evening, accompanied by a fair degree of arm jogging, as the audience realised that no less a personality than Dame Judi Dench was among them in the auditorium. Dame Judi is the mother of Finty Williams.

It means that within the space of a a few weeks the two actors voted the West End theatre-going public's favourites have been at The Theatre Royal, with Tom Conti featured in the recent production of Murder on Air as opposed to Dame Judi's 'appearance' in the Royal Stalls amid a full house on Wednesday evening.

Dangerous Corner is at The Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Saturday September 6. Contact the box office on 01753 853888 or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk .