AN INSPECTOR CALLS
by J B Priestley.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu 2.30pm Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 5120.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 September at Novello Theatre.
Seemingly imperishable play and production.
The postman may only knock twice, but this Inspector has been calling for two decades. Stephen Daldry’s ingenious production and Ian MacNeil’s design work because they respond to the play as a whole, not just individual moments, and because J B Priestley has a conviction which makes even the more nakedly emotional speeches this production theatrically illumines burn with conviction.
The 1912 home of affluent provincial business family the Birlings stands high above the grey street of 1944, the play’s own era. Nicholas Woodeson’s Inspector Goole, his shadow cast ominously up a whole side of the building by Rick Fisher’s lighting, is an advocate for the children who stand below as he visits judgment on the family.
How ridiculous the Birlings appear. Sheila, in white dress, seems to be over a storey-high when she steps onto the balcony. Others’ heads pop ludicrously in and out of the windows, behind which the blinds are brought down when most of the characters believe they’re off the hook over their involvement in the death of a working-class woman.
The production takes its greatest risk with Sheila, who giggles irresponsibly as long as possible, though she and her brother are the only two who develop morally from the moment Goole clamps a set of connecting steps between their privileged platform and the street.
It’s played fast, at times daringly so, like a game of wits between Goole and the rest, though Woodeson moulds the major moments, finding a surprisingly calm force for Priestley’s main statement of social responsibility. At one with the ordinary citizens, Goole sees the mighty fallen, as the Birlings, their house ripped open and crashing forward under the weight of their moral irresponsibility rather than mere bombs, huddle on the ground under emergency blankets, and the Inspector’s meek companions seem ready to inherit the earth.
But, as Brecht’s Arturo Ui. points out, the aggressive are ever-ready to re-assume power. And it seems they might here, until a final ‘phone call starts the cycle over again, in line with Priestley’s ideas of recurrence, for those who’ve refused to learn first time around.
Inspector Goole: Nicholas Woodeson.
Sybil Birling: Sandra Duncan.
Arthur Birling: David Roper.
Gerald Croft: Timothy Watson.
Sheila Birling: Marianne Oldham.
Eric Birling: Robin Whiting.
Edna: Diana Payne-Myers.
Children: Simon Breadmore, Ali Carney,
Helen Fox, Lewis Hallums, John Hughes, Gideon Leibowitz, George Reed, Penny Salman, Anna Rawlings Wiedemann.
Supernumeraries: Tony Parkin, Stefano Gressieux, Hugh Roderick, Charlie Hotson, Kya Ggreenwood, China Soul, Paul Taite, Ali Godfrey, Annabel Bates, Lesley Cox.
Director: Stephen Daldry.
Designer: Ian MacNeil.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.
Fight director: Terry King.
Associate director: Julian Webber.
Resident director: Adam Lenson.
Associate lighting: Ian Sanders.