Writer: J.B. Priestley
Director: Stephen Daldrey
Reviewer: Karen McCandless
The Public Reviews Rating:
An Inspector Calls, J.B. Priestley’s best-known and much-loved play, is a spooky tale of a well-to-do family that is visited out of the blue by the enigmatic Inspector Goole. All the action takes place one night in 1912 when Goole picks apart the Birling family’s cosy existence. Things (both the charade that is their lives and the set) then start to fall apart before their eyes.
The set, the effects and the music of this production are like something straight out of a horror film but also with a hint of the ridiculous – with a door that is much too small for the cast and an almost cartoonish appearance to the house. Shades of Hitchcock provide a real film noir feel while the smoke and rain effects give the whole production a chilling air.
The chemistry between the whole cast is excellent, they make a very believable family – bickering and fighting like any normal clan. Tom Mannion played a commanding and bullish Inspector, arriving as if from nowhere from the back of the theatre – twice. Maintaining an air of mystery and aloofness, he often didn’t make eye contact with the rest of the cast, as if he wasn’t quite there. Kelly Hotten as Shiela Birling also shines as she alternates between moments of hysteria and periods of real clarity. The laughs came courtesy of a convincing performance from Karen Archer as the snobby Sybil Birling, posturing and pouting around the stage. It wasn’t just the delivery of dialogue, it was her whole persona – the facial expressions and the flouncing. It was also the small touches that cemented this as a must see production: Edna rolling out the carpet so Sybil could descend the stairs and moving the chair around so the lady of the house always had something to sit on. Edna deserves a special mention – even though she had no lines, she still managed to reinforce the social context in Priestley’s play.
The air of tension and fear was high throughout with chaos and hysteria building as events took one shocking turn after another. And even though many theatregoers will already know the ending, it is still, quite literally, explosive.
Runs until 1 October
Picture: Robert Day
An Inspector Calls – Curve, Leicester,