Stephen Daldry’s award winning production of J.B Priestley’s classic thriller returns to London once again to explore the consequences of collective responsibility. 

An Inspector Calls at the Playhouse Theatre -The Cast of An Inspector Calls - Photo by Mark Douet.jpg
The cast of An Inspector Calls. (c) Mark Douet.

From Ian MacNeil’s fantastic set design all the way through to wonderful performances from Liam Brennan (Inspector Goole) and Barbara Marten (Sybil Birling), J.B Priestely’s masterful thriller is brought vibrantly to life, guaranteeing the audience’s attention from beginning to end.

The original production of An Inspector Calls first opened in the West End in 1946 and yet despite the play’s age, it still remains fresh and relevant now – particularly with regards to Brexit and the U.S elections – in terms of talking about collective responsibility and how our actions and words on other people affects their life choices.

The play centres around the arrival of Inspector Goole at the Birling family house with questions to ask of the family about the death of a young woman. But while all claim initially not to know the woman in question, as the evening wears on, startling revelations come to light  that shatter their peaceful family life.

What is so striking about the play and this particular production is the way in which it makes you stop and think how the way in which you talk or treat other people has the power to change their lives forever. In this case, the young woman in question’s life takes a downturn – leading the characters to believe in their own guilt and responsibility for her death.

It might be subtle, but Stephen Daldry’s production beautifully creates an increasing sense of tension and isolation as he questions each individual about the circumstances in which they met the girl, helped by Stephen Warbeck’s music that is haunting and eerie in equal measures.

By weaving the emotions of jealousy (Sheila for a dress that looked better on the deceased and thus got her fired), pride (Sybil turned her away from supporting her and her child for the ‘imprudence’ of using their family name to hide identity) and of course guilt (Eric – for not loving her as she loved him), it shows how our very emotions can lead us astray and not allow us to see clearly.

Liam Brennan as Inspector Goole is wonderfully straight faced, never giving anything away but yet the build up of frustration and anger at the family increasingly becomes clear, exploding in one of the climatic scenes that is fascinating to watch. Barbara Marten as the snooty Sybil is also strong, revealing that even with money mistakes can be made. She is cold and the character is unlikeable but it is a performance that you can’t take your eyes away from.

Some of the characters feel as though they could have been developed further in particular Hamish Riddle’s Eric who seems to be constantly on the outside and not fully present in what is happening around him, while it is difficult to see what Diana Payne-Myers’ character Edna is supposed to achieve as she wonders around the stage seemingly unsure of what to make of the unfolding events.

But despite this, it is a timeless adaptation of a classic that still feels as fresh and relevant as the day it was written and is a timely warning about actions that we might later regret.

An Inspector Calls continues to play at the Playhouse Theatre until the 25th March. To book tickets visit:  ATG Tickets, Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Last Minute.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk

Rating: ❤❤❤❤❤

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