by J. B. Priestley.

Gaiety Theatre South King Street Dublin 2. To 9 June 2012.
7:30 pm Mat Wed & Sat 2 pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 0818 719388.

Review: Michael Paye 6 June.

Priestley’s drama is given new life in a well-played production.

On a suitably rainy, windswept night, in Bromley, 1912, the Birling family is celebrating the recent engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to Gerald Croft. They are equally excited about the prospect of the resultant economic/social alignment of Birling and Company, and Crofts Limited, their respective businesses. During their celebrations, a mysterious stranger, Inspector Goole, calls to interrogate the family over the suicide of a young woman, and changes the pallor from rose-tinted to grey.

The setting for the play is excellent. The Birling family’s miniature mansion, elevated five feet above stage level, looks like a house of cards waiting to be toppled by the inspector, while the rain is truly torrential. Equally, upon his appearance, some skilful lighting casts the inspector’s imposing shadow over the building, stamping his mark on the coming events. The house itself is set off against a poverty-stricken backdrop, with three small children staring up at it, and we share their bleak, opaque view of upper-class pretensions. Indeed, such motifs are laid on thick throughout Priestley’s play, which become tiresome quite quickly, but there is no doubting the relevance of a piece which seeks to call attention to social injustice, first performed in Moscow in 1945.

The cast is strong in their respective roles. Henry Gilbert’s performance of the excitable Eric Birling is wonderful to watch, while Kelly Hotten works well with the unenviable lines at her disposal as Sheila Birling. The costumes are excellent, and along with some suitably noir music, the production has a Raymond Chandler feel that Priestley would no doubt have appreciated.

This bleak drama leaves us wondering what our role is in social stratification and unhappiness. Inspector Goole turns to the audience and prophetically states, “We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.” The message is as relevant today as in 1912 when the play is set, and 1945, its first production, though our distance from two major world wars has made it more of a theatrical flourish than Priestley had intended.

Inspector Goole: Tom Mannion.
Arthur Birling: Geoff Leesley.
Sybil Birling: Karen Archer.
Gerald Croft: John Sackville.
Sheila Birling: Kelly Hotten.
Eric Bikrling: Henry Gilbert.

Director: Stephen Daldry.
Designer: Ian Macneil.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.
Associate director: Julian Webber.

2012-06-06 14:41:56

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