**** 4 Stars
“Timely and Timeless, Truly Remarkable Theatre! ”
The National Theatre’s on London’s South Bank transcended theatre in 1992 with Acclaimed director Stephen Daldry’s Landmark production of JB Priestley’s classic Thriller, An Inspector Calls, enjoying major success at the National before enjoying runs at the Aldwych and Garrick theatres in the west end. Daldry would revisit the production in 2009 which saw further runs in the west end at the Novello and Wyndham’s Theatres. It’s that production, which is now touring the UK and calls at the Festival Theatre for a week’s run.
Telling the story of a long draw out night in the family of the Birling’s an upper class family at the tail end of world war two in blitz barraged London of 1945, a gentleman claiming to Inspector Goole arrives at their door disturbing a dinner party to question them over the suicide of a young girl, the family are faced with confessions of the soul, the secrets long since buried and the reality that not everything is as it seems.
There have been several productions of the play over the years as was much derided as a pot boiler until Daldry transformed the play thanks in equal parts to its casting and Ian MacNeil astonishing design that truly opens the play up and takes us into the heart of the story making it both timely and timeless.
This current tour features a simply stellar ensemble cast with Liam Brennan as Inspector Goole turning in a fine Scottish ethereal performance with a delivery that drips the words every line off the lips and into the audience’s mind. As Sybil, Arthur, Sheila and Eric Birling are Christine Kavanagh, Jeffery Harmer, Chloe Orrock and George Rowlands respectively. They deliver a master class in dysfunctional family plumbing the depths, driven by love and the need to protect but ultimately leaving them all caught in the crossfire and hurting, its riveting to watch. The cast is rounded out by Simon Cotton as Gerald Croft and Frances Campbell as Edna.
Director Daldry really gets to grip with both performances and productions elements with MacNeil’s Design being simply breath taking, with the set lurching off the stage as the rain pounds down its wonderfully evocative. The production is boosted by Rick Fisher delicate and intricate Lighting design coupled with Stephen Warbeck’s musical score giving depth. Sebastian Frost’s sound design is effective but there were some glitches on press night with sound balance and delays on the mic’s which are minor quibbles but were none the less noticeable.
Overall, this inventive production is as fresh now as it was in 1992 and mesmerises the audience especially in the tail end of act three (all three acts run together, there are no intervals) and reminds us all of the power that beautifully stage, classic British drama can have and that it still holds its place with modern day audiences. Truly remarkable theatre!
PW Productions Presents “An Inspector Calls”, The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, runs until Saturday 4thFebruary 2023, For further info go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/all-shows/an-inspector-calls/58
The Production will visit the Theatre Royal, Glasgow from the 23rd to the 27th May 2023.