A well welcomed two show week, with my second viewing being back at the Churchill Theatre for tonight’s opening night of the multi-award winning National Theatre’s Landmark production of An Inspector Calls.
The play takes on a single night in April 1912, focusing on a prosperous upper middle-class family the Birling’s, who live in a fancy home in the town of Brumley – reflecting a industrial city in the north Midlands. Whilst the family are concluding a family dinner, they are visiting by a man called Inspector Goole. He begins to question the family about a recent suicide of a young working-class women. As the answers start to come out it uncovers revelations that will change each member of the Birling family forever. This revival of JB Priestley’s classic thriller has been seen by over 4 million people since it first open in 1992, it is also a play that is studied in many British schools as one of the prescribed texts for the English Literature which was clearly demonstrated by the many students in the audience!
Having not known much about the production I could understand why it has had such a success, the story is compelling throughout and grows as the inspector questions each member revelling secrets and connections that seem impossible but yet fit together. The main focus on this production for me was class, with the difference of upper and working clearly portrayed throughout through the impressive staging of Ian Macneil as when the Birling’s were in the safety of their home their status was strong but when Inspector Goole begins to question them and brings them down into the working class they break down along with it and see the truths that they have been hiding. There many things within this text that can be interpreted which is why this is a perfect text for students to break down. But it wouldn’t be as impressive without a strong cast:
Inspector Goole – Liam Brennan
Sybil Birling – Christine Kavanagh
Arthur Birling – Jeffrey Harmer
Shelia Birling – Chloe Orrock
Gerald Croft – Alasdair Buchan
Eric Birling – Ryan Saunders
Edna – Linda Beckett
Liam Brennan steps into the Inspector role perfectly, with perfect timing and intimidation to the role. He was strong and powerful when present on stage and top of the class as those around him broke down and yet we respected him throughout. Chloe Orrock gave a stand out performance of Shelia, who displayed every emotion and her transition through them was beautiful displayed and was passionate.
I particularly loved Ryan Saunders as Eric, as you watched him break down towards the end of play that you felt for him. As you can see in the beginning he is a son who is misunderstood and not respected as he would have hoped, to which he goes and seeks comfort elsewhere, in this case a bottle. When all his truths come to light, Ryan’s interpretation of this was moving and respectfully done with a small hint of humour to light the dark moments at times. His father and mother played by Jeffrey Harmer and Christine Kavanagh excelled at the upper class stamina.
The production is a powerful story and shows so many different meanings and message than many can leave with. A classic within its right and one that is hard not to enjoy! Playing at the Churchill theatre until Saturday 14th September, for all ticket information go here. It will then continue on its tour, for all dates and venues head here.