Writer: J.B Priestley
Director: Stephen Daldry
Reviewer: Jess Rowe
With the original production being 70 years ago, Priestley’s An Inspector Calls continues to be a renowned piece of drama for theatregoers and students around the country. Stephen Daldry’s, director of the film and West End production of Billy Elliot, adaptation of the classic but arguably outdated drawing room drama brings another dimension of theatre that resurrects the piece’s success, mirroring the 1912 setting to today’s society.
Focusing on the household of the middle-class family, the Birlings, whose night of celebration of an engagement and business success is disrupted by an unwelcomed visitor. With the arrival of Police Inspector Goole, he announces a recent suicide of a young woman that the family ignorantly consider to be nothing in their interest. It is only when the Inspector begins to unravel information that could threaten the family’s social position do they begin to worry about who is to blame.
On first impressions, you are immediately aware this is not a naturalistic interpretation of the text. Daldry uses a subtle form of epic theatre through the use of costume changes on stage and direct address to the audience. His alienation towards audience from the text through Ian MacNeil’s clever design reveals the exterior of the house that draws our focus to watch the orphan-like children play on the streets outside rather than the pretentious middle-class waffle of the Birlings; that Daldry presents in a muffled, unclear tone. When the house opens out to reveal its interior, Liam Brennan’s unnerving interpretation of Inspector Goole never enters the bourgeoisie dining room forcing the characters to come down and speak to him on MacNeil’s street design; combining the two class environments. All the mediums of the production are significant to the piece, creating an atmosphere of suspense and tension. Likewise, the destruction of family relationships are not only displayed through the actors but also featuring in the set and Stephen Warbeck’s orchestrations.
The use of an ensemble giving a range of interpretations of being the Inspector’s jury or everyday men of the society the family are so blinkered from, produce a strong finishing image on the piece and provoke a support to the Inspector’s actions. This one act interpretation of Priestley’s three act criticism of capitalism and socialism leaves you pondering how relevant it is to the modern world.
Runs until 5 March 2016then continues to tour | ImageMark Douet