By: Dulcie Harrison, TRP Reviewer
J.B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is carefully plotted and remains a must see immersive theatre show to watch. The 1945 play famously delves into the story of a strange and mysterious inspector who comes to interview the arrogant, self-satisfied Birling family about their collective involvement in a young working-class woman’s suicide. What started out to be an enjoyable, and classy celebration dinner would soon turn out to be the longest and most memorable night of their lives…
The set is designed by Ian MacNeil and creates an impressive impact -an imaginative version of the Birling house, surrounded by a landscape echoing the Second World War bombing aiming to take the audience back to 1945, when the play was written. The stage requires no changes but it bends and buckles its way through the multiple scenes and allows room for the actors to breathe and fill the space which only adds to the eerie atmosphere. In a remarkable way, the set is almost a character of its own, contributing its own surprises for the audience to further captivate and suck them into this gripping play. The design is reinforced by the sinister music (Stephen Warbeck) which contributes to the tension effectively, with no interval, you barely feel the 1hr 50 running time – a tribute to the quality of acting displayed by the cast.
Jeffery Harmer (Mr Birling), and Christine Kavanagh (Mrs Birling) perfectly convey the personalities of their haughty, strong tempered and self centred characters and complete with their clear potent stage chemistry together makes for a powerful performance. Zealous daughter Sheila (Chloe Orrock), and confident fiancé Gerald Croft (Maceo Cortezz), bounce perfectly off each other as they go through the motions of constantly changing feelings/ thoughts for each other as the events and secrets of the night unfold. George Rowlands plays the unpredictable character Eric Birling who starts the play as a tipsy and vocal young man and by the end of the play becomes a distressed emotional wreck. Rowlands puts his all into this intense and heavy performance and it truly fills the auditorium.
Walking from the stalls, comes Liam Brennan who plays the assertive and imposing Inspector Goole. With his cleverly crafted performance, he allows time for his many accusations towards the Birling family to resonate with the audience- his words intended for real and fictional ears. The gentle force yet speed of timing is excellent as he brings down each character with not just an attack on their character but their moral compass. The excellent writing of Priestly allows depth of character and encourages the audience to become enveloped in the story of who is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith.
As each character in turns ends up confessing to a dark secret they hoped no one would ever find out, the audience are taken on a journey and sympathise for a young girl who hasn’t even graced the stage. The show holds a strong mirror up to society today and forces the audience to question their own daily actions and showing how decisions can really be something you have to live with.
This show is a must see and there’s no better place for it than our Theatre Royal – showing until Saturday 11 March 2023.