Having worked in a secondary school, I know the play inside out through helping GCSE students study it in great detail. I was looking forward to seeing it on stage as opposed to reading the lines…and re-reading the lines…and dissecting them…many times!
Upon entering the auditorium, we were greeted by hoards of students, on school trips with their teachers. Noisy but it was so lovely to see some schools taking the students to help them bring the play to life.
Once the hustle and bustle had settled, we were greeted with a dark and eerie start to the play. An air raid siren blared, a little boy ran from the shadows and on to the stage; all mysterious. When the curtains opened, we were greeted (when the smoke cleared) with a part of a house, people inside chatting and a dark figure watching them from the outside. I wondered if the whole play would be conducted in the little house and we would have to try and see what was going on by peeping through the curtains. But eventually the smoke cleared and the front of the house was opened. It reminded me of those Polly Pocket houses you used to get as a child.
Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan) had come to interrogate the well-to-do Birling family on the tragic death of a young female. Head of the family Arthur Birling (Jeffrey Harmer) was the first to be quizzed. How had he known the girl? Mr Birling knew her alright; he had fired her for daring to strike at his factory when a pay rise was refused. Classing her as a troublemaker, he saw nothing wrong with getting rid of such a lowly member of staff, another person would readily take her place.
Daughter Sheila was next, when shown the picture of the dead girl, she soon recognised her as the girl she had ensured got the sack from her favourite shop. According to Sheila, this shop worker had dared to look better than her when Sheila had tried on some clothing that wasn’t quite right. Feeling jealous, Sheila insisted the girl lose her job or the department store would lose the family’s custom.
Gerald Croft (Alasdair Buchan) was the fiancé of Sheila, surely he wouldn’t be involved? But upon hearing a name the girl was known by, his face told a thousand stories. A story of infidelity. Gerald knew the girl, kept her as his mistress for a while, until he no longer required her. Once she had fulfilled his needs, he moved her out of a luxurious apartment that he let her stay in. After all, she was just some girl he picked up in a bar, no matter.
Matriarch of the family Sybil (Christine Kavanagh) was insistent that she knew nothing about the girl. Inspector Goole soon wheedled it out of her that she did indeed know the girl and had very recently refused to give the girl assistance, merely because she didn’t like her. Sybil classed her as a liar, ignoring the desperate pleas of a girl in need. Exuding power over her, the girl was once again rejected. Convinced there had been no wrongdoing by her family, what a shock to learn of her darling son Eric’s (Ryan Saunders) involvement with the suicidal female.
After a harrowing night of confession, was Inspector Goole all he seemed?
The set was atmospheric, really adding to the drama and the build-up. The Birling house all resplendent…but on stilts in a bleak landscape of cobbles and rain. Light and shade. The presence of real water cascading down on to the stage really pulled you in so you felt as if you were there, at the Birling house, in the rain. On the outside looking in.
A thought-provoking story of class and status; the message so clear – be careful of what you say and do, how might your actions affect others? That people’s priorities are about being in power and material possessions rather than community, humility and kindness. This message is as relevant now as it was when this was written by J B Priestley.
An Inspector Calls 11.02.2020
Tickets here – https://trch.co.uk/whats-on/an-inspector-calls/