Wednesday, 30 September 2009

An Inspector Calls - Novello Theatre, London

An Inspector Calls
Writer: JB Priestley
Director: Stephen Daldry
Reviewer: Marie Kenny

Our actions have consequences.

JB Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ screams that we are all responsible for each other. Written in 1944, set in 1912, resurrected in 1992 and now performed in 2009, the message at the heart of the play still rings true through this production.

At the start of JB Priestleys’ period thriller, the comfortable Birling family are celebrating the engagement of daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft. Oozing wealth and pomposity Arthur Birling takes the opportunity to share his theories on money and success along with the glories of being on the right side of the social divide. Interrupting this cozy evening strides Inspector Goole, who informs them a young girl has killed herself just hours before. Here begins an astonishing sequence of twists and turns as Goole chips away at their self-satisfaction, revealing how each of them contributed to her downfall.

With direction by Stephen Daldry, the production succeeds in presenting a family of such unlikeable, insensitive self-centred creatures, who are far from subtle in their characterisation. Sandra Duncan takes on the role of the robust, defensive and downright deluded Mrs Birling. When faced with the consequences of her actions, her hysteric crying and rolling around on the floor is not for the dead girl but for the damage the ‘scandal’ could do to her all important social status. Unlike her parents, Sheila Birling, a strong performance from Marianne Oldham, sees her flaws and mistakes and leads the cast with the hope that with youth there is a chance for change.

The star of the show is of course, Ian MacNeils wonderful set, an unfolding dolls house on stilts. It’s transformation is still as impressive and fascinating today, 17 years after its original creation. This 2009 production could be considered a timely reminder. The play calls on the audience to have a social conscience, to take another look at those less fortunate, to stop and consider our actions.

Photos: Robert Day
Runs for a limited period at the Novello Theatre, London
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