J.B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” was first performed in 1945 and was dropped into that vast genre of “drawing-room drama.” In 1992 Stephen Daldry revived the play in London and has returned to it several times since. Now Daldry’s production plays right here at the Shakespeare Theatre.
Daldry’s signature cinematic and dramatic style is beautifully realized in this production. From the nuanced acting and stage pictures to the heart-stopping climax, his fingerprints are all over the production.
Daldry’s “An Inspector Calls” is a gorgeously evocative piece of theatre about how each person affects others…
The play is set one evening in the Birling’s home as they celebrate the engagement of their daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft. During the festivities, Inspector Goole arrives to ask a few questions regarding a young woman’s death. As the evening progresses secrets come out and the Birlings and Croft must face how they each have a responsibility to other people.
The mysterious and straight-talking Inspector Goole was played by Liam Brennan. His grounded and poignant energy held the others together. Christine Kavanagh played the cruel and disconnected Mrs. Birling while Jeff Harmer played her business-minded husband. Sheila was played by Lianne Harvey and her brother Eric was played by Hamish Riddle. Croft was played by Andrew Macklin. Edna, who represents the working class and is often disregarded by the Birling’s was played by Diana Payne-Myers.
This ensemble of actors was electrifyingly connected and strong. They gave their characters so much life and depth as they wrestle with their roles in this young woman’s life and death. Riddle, in particular, brought heart-wrenching emotion and regret to the stage that froze the audience.
The ensemble also included three children, all of whom were so vibrant and innocent. The Inspector is the only one who regards them with warmth.
The set was designed by Ian MacNeil. When the curtain rises the reveal the dollhouse that is the Birling’s home, there was an audible gasp from the crowd. It is truly grand yet desolate, like a lone island of wealth in a dystopia. It created this beautiful yet sad world for the actors to explore and play. MacNeil also designed the gorgeous costumes.
This production was entirely underscored, which added to the cinematic feel. The music is by Stephen Warbeck and perfectly followed the story. With slight moments to emphasize the mystery or a revelation or the theme, the music enhanced the fantasy of this almost too relatable situation. Sebastian Frost is the sound designer.
Rick Fisher designed the lighting beautifully contrasting the light and the dark of the world of the story. The stage seemed to go on forever behind the Birling’s which gave them a loneliness.
Daldry’s “An Inspector Calls” is a gorgeously evocative piece of theatre about how each person affects others, whether we realize it or not. The littlest thing one does can change the course of someone’ life. Maybe if people took more responsibility for their actions and chose a little bit of empathy, the world might be a kinder place for everyone.
Advisory: Fog/haze, flashes, loud bangs, and rain.
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.
“An Inspector Calls” runs at Shakespeare Theatre Company through Dec. 23. For tickets and more information click here.