AN INSPECTOR CALLS: J B Priestley.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 1h 40m: no interval: till 14th November.
Performance times: 7.30pm, matinees 2.00pm Weds and Thurs, and 2.30pm Sat.
Review: Alan Geary: 10th November 2015.
Stephen Daldry’s production continues to dazzle.
Stephen Daldry’s An Inspector Calls is now twenty odd years old. It continues to dazzle nevertheless, particularly if you haven’t seen it before. There’s still that remarkable, expressionist set, an under-sized mansion insulated from the squalor of the surrounding urban dereliction. And we still get a bonus play set in 1940, to frame the main one set in 1912.
But the air-raid element of some years back seems less obvious this time – the house ends up less blitzed. And there’s less overt dramatic irony: there’s no smug assumption that the Titanic isn’t going to sink, and a more muted discussion about why the 1914-18 unpleasantness won’t happen.
Visual features works at various levels. The ruined house at the end is a casualty of WWII, but it’s also the discredited Edwardian social order, and the shattered complacency of the main characters. The street-children in an air-raid are the victims of the power-wielders of an earlier generation. The silent bystanders observing the action are the British people, a community united in a noble crusade.
Inspector Goole is Priestley’s archetypal messianic figure who comes from nowhere to turn people’s lives over, then disappears. His message still resonates. Unbridled free enterprise won’t do; we have to ditch dog-eat-dog and look out for one another. Each of us has to live life with an awareness of the common good. If we do not destruction awaits us. Significantly, the only physical act of kindness actually depicted is done by a working-class character.
But this Inspector isn’t mere polemic. It still stands up as a fine thriller, along the way generating some laughs.
Inspector Goole is Scottish, a good idea for an integrity figure. But sadly, Liam Brennan’s performance is the least convincing of the evening. He’s too shouty and too emotionally involved in the investigation. There’s even a moment of eroticism between him and Sheila (Katherine Jack), which is compelling but contextually inappropriate.
Tim Woodward’s Arthur Birling, the nouveau riche Yorkshire factory owner, is nicely boorish and smug. Hamish Riddle’s Eric is properly nervy and doesn’t over-do the camp, or the dissoluteness. The others are also excellent.
Interestingly, and rightly, there’s no interval.
Inspector Goole: Liam Brennan.
Sybil Birling: Caroline Wildi.
Arthur Birling: Tim Woodward.
Gerald Croft: Matthew Douglas.
Sheila Birling: Katherine Jack.
Eric Birling: Hamish Riddle.
Edna: Diana Payne-Myers.
Small Boy: Caleb Kingsley.
Girl: Molly Dodge-Taylor.
Older Boy: Matthew Baggaley.
Director: Stephen Daldry.
Designer: Ian MacNeil.
Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.