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An Inspector Calls - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Louise Winter on 24th Feb 2016 | View all blogs by Louise Winter

Reviewed by Lousie Winter 23rd February 2016

Inspector Calls poster

The core message of Priestly’s play, that of collective social responsibility, seems evermore relevant. First produced 24 years ago at the National Theatre, Stephen Daldry’s touring production was well received last night.

Using the device and style of a detective thriller it is fundamentally a philosophical play about social conscience, demonstrating how one person’s behaviour can have significant and even devastating consequences. The drama unfolds in stages as Inspector Goole arrives in the middle of a celebration and questions each member of the Birling family in turn as to their connection with a young woman who has committed suicide. Liam Brennan as Goole is suitably tenacious and commanding, gradually coercing each character to admit the truth and forcing them to consider their past actions and motivation.

An Inspector Calls Mark Douet

image copyright Mark Douet

Set and staging are most effective with an air of surrealism. The mini-sized lopsided house with tiny door and windows, perched high on stilts, contains the drawing room within which the Birling family are crammed toasting Shelia and Gerald engagement. This enclosed, too-small space gives a sense of discomfort and awkwardness, signifying the narrow, stifling middle-class conventions by which the family are all bound. The eventual throwing open of the front and sides of the house to expose the bright, sumptuous interior luminous among the bleak blitzed surroundings start the Inspector's exposure of the characters' secrets and misdemeanours.

Priestly’s dense text is key and Daldry’s production keeps this paramount not allowing any other elements to detract from this. Stephen Warbeck’s music is used sparingly to underline key dramatic moments and to heighten tension only. Daldry’s manipulation of time within the play: the events set in 1912, the 1940’s attired ‘Supernumeraries’ to witness the Birling family’s disclosures, and the moments where the audience is addressed, move the physical time around so as to place the central message in both the past and present.

AN Inspector Calls Mark Douet

image copyright Mark Douet

The cast are equally sharp and excellent, Caroline Wildi and Katherine Jack as Sybil and Sheila Birling are perfect. Wildi has some of the most amusing moments and the decline from her lofty, regal, and immaculate image to that of her sitting in the gutter disarrayed and dishevelled is symbolic of the collapse of the moral fibre of her character and all the family. Geoff Lesley as Arthur Birling is suitably gruff and inflexible, almost completely refusing to admit he has done anything improper. Hamish Riddle is superb as Eric Birling, his nervous energy, near hysteria and awkwardness perfectly pitched. Matthew Douglas plays with aplomb the falsely jocular and loud fiancé Gerald Croft and the realisation of the damage his past behaviour has done leaves him momentarily lost; only momentarily though. It is Sheila and Eric who you feel may have learned some type of lesson and who may go on to be better human beings. They are the only redeeming characters. However, the audience don’t escape. The play halts. The audience is addressed directly: think of and care about others instead of focussing on material possessions, power, and status. A message for our times and as pertinent as ever.

Priestly's theme is timeless. Daldry's production is full of suspense, thrill and anticipation.

At MK theatre until Sat 27th February

Tickets from

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/an-inspector-calls/milton-keynes-theatre/ 

0844 871 7652

booking fee applies

 

 

Comments

2 Comments

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    Thanks, Louise. You can't beat a classic when it is done well!
  • Louise Winter
    by Louise Winter 1 year ago
    You can't ... and I keep thinking about the play so another good sign!
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