Writer: J B Priestley
Director: Stephen Daldry
An Inspector Callsis a hugely popular GCSE text across England (and probably beyond) so it is no surprise that J B Priestley’s complex play is still enjoying sell out tours of the UK. It tells the story of Birling family as they get tied up in a police investigation. The play address key themes around morality and features plenty of social commentary that still, alas, finds itself relevant today.
Stephen Daldry directs this production, alongside Charlotte Peters as Associate Director. The production is packed full of symbolism and the use of space has a lot to say about the play’s key themes, such as social class. The space is used effectively and the play keeps moving at a pace – at times it feels as though the actors need to slow down a little. Ian MacNeil’s set is intriguing and works well for the piece. His costumes are beautiful and set the piece in its time period perfectly. Rick Fisher’s lighting design is used to add a level of complexity of the production, whilst Terry King makes the fights look incredibly believable (the audience audibly gasped more than once).
The cast do a great job at presenting this deeply layered play, which is quite long for one act show. Liam Brennan leads the cast is Inspector Goole. He has the ideal level of mystery and has a great stage presence. George Rowlands shows fantastic range as Eric Birling – at the start of the play he is a huge ball of energy, adding some much needed humour to an otherwise dark play, whilst later on we see his downfall and he tackles the more emotionally charged moments expertly. Jeffrey Harmer is authoritative and somewhat terrifying at times as Arthur Birling, the father who wants control over everything happening in his household, and Christine Kavanagh gives a strong performance as Sybil Birling, the mother who can’t see that she’s ever done any wrong whilst also being protective of her family.
The highlight of the play for this reviewer was Chloe Orrock as Sheila Birling. She is excellent as the strong and feisty woman, somewhat ahead of her time. Her diction is crystal clear, she brings a level of warmth to the proceedings and portrays the wide range of emotions she is required to expertly.
An InspectorCallslives on in the hands of a capable cast and for students up and down the country, seeing the play brought to life so vividly will no doubt help them to add a new level of nuance to their analysis of the piece. This touring production is packed full of symbolism and theatricality, and is an enjoyable evening whether you know the play inside out or this is your first encounter with it.
Runs until 6th May 2023, before continuing on tour.