J B Priestley’s classic thriller ‘An Inspector Calls‘ has arrived in Edinburgh at the King’s Theatre. Stephen Daldry’s acclaimed production has toured time and time again, plus it returned for a stint in London’s west end. But does this production still hold up in 2019?
The story is set in world war two Britain, it follows the Birling family on the eve of celebrating their daughter, Shelia’s, engagement to Gerald Croft. Suddenly an Inspector named Goole visits the family home investigating the death of a young woman. But how are the upper-class Birling family involved in this young woman’s death?
Liam Brennan portrays Inspector Goole with a Scottish twist, well clouded in mystery, delivering perfect sarcastic humour which lifts the character and scenes. The delivery of emotion is perfect, the only issue in this portrayal is at some points it feels Liam is emphasizing parts of the dialogue too much and there isn’t any real context as to why these words/sentences should be spoke louder or bolder than others. However, Liam does well in portraying the authority and sanity compared to the contrasting madness occurring on stage.
Christine Kavanagh as Sybil Birling is champagne casting. Christine radiates the pretentious snobbery that comes with this character perfectly, she also adapts seamlessly through the journey of Christine and the broken woman we are left with towards the end of the play. Jeffrey Harmer gives us the epitimy of a 1940s upper class father as Arthur Birling. The character is one which the audience love to hate due to Jeffrey’s brutal self centred delivery of this character, it is a very enjoyable portrayal which definitely is not emotionally accessible for the audience. Which is how the character was specifically designed to be by Priestley.
Gerald Croft is given a more accessible and lighter portrayal by Alasdair Buchan. You feel as if you understand this character’s thought process due to Alisdair presenting us with a more level headed young gentleman. However, Alisdair still does well when it comes to the scenes that the character’s self-indulgence takes over and the audience do question his morals. Linda Beckett as Edna supplies us a silent but important portrayal. Edna is always noticeable thanks to Linda’s emphasis in movement.
Ryan Saunders as Eric Birling delivers an excellent character journey where due to Ryan’s perfect portrayal of the character’s circumstances, we go from loathing to pitying this character. The emotional outcry towards the end of this play was performed stunningly by Ryan. Chloe Orrock is devestating as Sheila Birling, she gives us pure innocence to a woman who is broken with guilt and the dispair of her family’s manner. This journey is portrayed perfectly by Chloe.
J B Priestley’s script for ‘An Inspector Calls‘ is more relevant now than ever before. This play surrounding reflection on humanity’s self-indulgence and our behaviour to others has never been more important than within this isolating society within the 21st century. Stephen Daldry’s direction is perfect for this play, he brings life, emotion and importance into Priestley’s script as well as presenting us with a production which is pretty much timeless. This production was first performed in 1992, now in 2019 it still relates and does not seem dated.
Ian MacNeil’s set design for this production is simply stunning, the street and (obviously) the house is now iconic within British theatre. The reveal of the house in the rain at the start of this production is simply staggering and spine tingling. The set is so effective and works brilliantly, even with the small space supplied, to tell this story. Rick Fisher’s lighting design compliments MacNeil’s set perfectly, by bringing appropriate lighting for each section of the play. Stephen Warbeck’s music also delivers a great atmosphere to the play, making the setting and plot even more eerie.
‘An Inspector Calls‘ is one of the best plays that is currently touring the UK. There is no other play quite like it. It’s reflection on humans self-obsessive behaviour has never been more relevant in this world of people obsessed with self-image and wanting to be noticed. Who knew a play written at the end of World War Two would be so relevant in 2019?
‘AN INSPECTOR CALLS‘ IS CURRENTLY PLAYING CAPITAL THEATRE’S EDINBURGH KING’S THEATRE. GET TICKETS BELOW:
Written by Lewis C. Baird