As a complete new comer to theatre and of An Inspector calls itself, I went to the show with an open mind and left open mouthed. The show itself is truly outstanding.
An Inspector calls was written by J.B.Priestly and centres around the Birlings, a wealthy and socially upstanding family, who are celebrating their daughter Sheila’s (played by Katherine Jack) engagement to Gerald Croft (played by Matthew Douglas). In attendance is also Shelia’s Father Arthur Birling (played by Tim Woodward), her Mother Sybil Birling (played by Caroline Wildi) and her brother Eric Birling (played by Hamish Riddle). During this celebration they are disturbed by a gentleman coming to the door by the name of Inspector Goole (played by Liam Brennan) informing them of a suicide of a young lady, whom they all had prior connections with. The story is full of twists, turns and revelations and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout. The main undercurrent to this play is a message of caring for one another and realising that each action has a consequence, dramatically emphasised by Goole’s final words.
The staging of the production was incredible. The play began with rain falling from the ceiling on to the stage, creating the correct atmosphere immediately. I found it fascinating how they achieved this on a stage production and the overall effect set the scene perfectly. Your eyes are then immediately drawn to a house, which was centre stage and elevated slightly. The scenery made you feel like you were right there and part of the action, exactly as though you were sat there in the Birling’s home experiencing the same as they were. It was evident a lot of thought went into the set and scenery and it heavily contributed to how easily the audience became immersed in to the play. As soon as the curtains opened, I uttered the words ‘wow’ as the stage set was that impressive, I don’t think I have enough words to give the credit the staging deserves. That is what immediately sucked me in to ‘An inspector Calls’ and once I was in, I was unable to leave.
The inspector himself makes a dramatic entrance and makes an impression immediately. Brennan took the character on whole heartedly and captivated the audience from the start. As he begins questioning each character individually his own character evolves and becomes more and more evocative, sucking the audience in but yet still remaining a mystery, keeping he audience second guessing his part in the entire story. As an actor on live stage I imagine this to be a difficult thing to do but Brennan made it seem second nature. However, for me, the stand out actor of the evening was Hamish Riddle. Considering this was his professional theatre début I feel he deserves recognition for his work in the play as Eric Birling. His character starts with humour and he became instantly likeable. He starts as a lovable drunk, enjoying the celebration of his sisters engagement, making light of the inspector being there. There is a period through the middle in which he is absent but once he reappears his character has changed dramatically. He is no longer the smartly dressed son of an affluent former mayor, but a drunken, dishevelled man.
A character that previously seemed to conform to his fathers ideology is suddenly able to stand up and say what he truly believes. Without giving away too much of the story, you can tell that his character is ashamed of his actions and feeling responsibility for what he has done. The way in which Riddle portrays this change really shows what a talented actor he is and how involved in the character he was. Credit must also be issued to Diana Payne-Myers who plays Edna, the Birling’s parlourmaid. Although she is seen as a subsidiary character she played the role exceptionally well and had the audience laughing, a crucial role to lighten the mood again through some of the darker scenes. Each actor played their roles exceptionally well, depicting their character in a believable manner and I feel that the audience found it easy to connect with each individual and understand their stories. The only slight criticism I have of this play is when a character ‘fell’ or was ‘hit’. I understand these must be difficult things to make believable when acting on stage but I felt it could have been portrayed better.
Overall for me this was an outstanding performance and has created a new love for me with theatre. It does leave you questioning and I must admit once I was home I began researching and reading up about ‘An Inspector Calls’ as it piqued my curiosity. This to me is a sign of a job well done by all involved in this production. I had watched and thoroughly enjoyed the play and it left me wanting more. I would even go and see it again to see if I can pick up on any thing that I may have missed first time round. Every detail has been thought through to create a spellbinding experience for its audience, the very opening had me awe struck and I remained captivated throughout.
ItsMuchMore.com : Guest Reviewer Rachel Potts
An Inspector Calls – review from 10/11/2015 Nottingham Theatre Royal