by J B Priestley.

Tour to 21 May 2016.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 February.

Theatre of blood and fire.
Seeing Stephen Daldry’s revolutionary production – which originated at York Theatre Royal in 1989, before emerging fully three years later at London’s Lyttelton Theatre and spreading its wings to the known theatrical universe – his brilliantly insightful account (to which Ian McNeil’s design is integral) finds flexibility to face a new, colder age.

Daldry creates the war-torn streets of the play’s 1945 with guns, bombs and cratered surfaces around the raised Edwardian elegance of the wealthy Birling household, stuck aloft with doll’s house irrelevance to reality. But these dolls believe themselves the cream of society, masked though they are in the opening minutes from the audience as from the rest of the stage world.

Progressively, the visiting police Inspector undermines their confidence – Priestley’s pacing of revelations is masterly, with some sharp moral shocks along the way – and Daldry provides visual accompaniment. Now, more than ever, the young Birlings are giggly and superficial, though they become the two who might, like some characters in the playwright’s more overt time plays of the 1930s, make moral progress.

If Daldry was clarifying Priestley’s point about social responsibility – and no other play of the forties so directly confronted the implications of Margaret Thatcher’s “no such thing as society” – he’s now responding to the wilder horrors of neo-capitalism breaking human bounds. The Birlings lay into each other, literally. There are punches, pushings and pullings. Anger often takes physical form, elegantly-dressed figures drag through the mire.

Edna, the servant, seems more than ever a figure of rebellion, serving her employers tea from cheap white mugs as their little world explodes and collapses, while Liam Brennan’s Inspector works through contrasting cool irony, holding back tonally on his speech about “blood and fire and anguish”. Laconic, he makes use of pauses, as if considering as much as judging.

Yet he allies himself with the rising generation of 1940s school-children. “We” is his pronoun as he stands by them. And newly-engaged Sheila, admiring her expensive engagement ring, catches the eye of a wondering street-lad, making a brief connection.

There is hope, as Priestley believed and Daldry’s ever-inventive production continues to reveal.

Inspector Goole: Liam Brennan.
Sybil Birling: Caroline Wildi.
Arthur Birling: Geoff Leesley.
Gerald Croft: Matthew Douglas.
Sheila Birling: Katherine Jack.
Eric Birling: Hamish Riddle.
Edna: Diana Payne-Myers.
Small Boy: Joshua Moss.
Girl: Antonia Knight.
Older Boy: Ben Amburey.
with Victor Guse, Tommy Pegg, Ryan Truscott, Andy Truscott, Sophie Stuart-Buttle, Hazel Jenner, Karen Lawlor, Andrea Ashby.

Director: Stephen Daldry.
Designer: Ian McNeil.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.
Fight director: Terry King.
Associate director: Julian Webber.
Assistant director: Charlotte Peters.
Associate lighting: Will Evans.
Associate sound: Sebastian Frost.

23-27 Feb 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Milton Keynes Theatre 0844 871 7652
1-5 Mar 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Thu 7.30pmHall for Cornwall Truro: 01872 262466
8-12 March 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu 2pm, Sat 2.30pm Audio-described, Captioned Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Thu 7.30pm His Majesty’s Aberdeen 01224 641122
17-19; 21-23 March 7.30pm Mat Fri, Sat, Tue, Wed 2.15pm Audio-described Sat 2.15pm Curve Leicester 0116 242 3595
5-9 Apr 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2pm Mayflower Theatre Southampton 023 80 711811
12-16 Apr 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm New Theatre Cardiff 029 2087 8889
19-23 Apr 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651
26-30 Apr 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2.30pm Swan Theatre High Wycombe 01494 512000
3-7 May 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu 2pm, Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Thu 2pm Captioned Fri Alhambra Theatre Bradford 01274 432000
10-14 May 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu 2pm, Sat 2.30pm Grand Opera House Belfast 028 9024 1919
17-21 May 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2pm The Lowry (Lyric Theatre) Salford Quays 0843 208 6000

2016-02-26 14:31:26

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