CREAGH SAYS .... This to me is theatre at its best - a riveting story expertly portrayed by a (mostly) excellent cast.
It’s such a nail-biting story that there’s no interval.
There’s also an intriguing twist in the tail and the set has a starring role of its own.
The J B Priestley play was first performed in 1945 and it has certainly stood the test of time - as relevant today with its angry revelations of social mores as it was way back when it made its post war debut.
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It opens with the engagement of the daughter of a self-made businessman and the son of an aristocratic family.
But the celebrations are interrupted by the arrival of a dour Scottish detective investigating a tragic suicide that each of the self-deluded, gilded characters has contributed to.
Arthur Birling (beautifully played by Geoff Leesley), puffed up with his own importance; his wife Sybil (Caroline Wildi) arrogant and disdainful; their vain daughter Sheila (Katherine Jack) and alcoholic son Eric (Hamish Riddle), all initially denying any involvement.
And Sheila’s well-to-do fiance, Gerald Croft (Matthew Douglas), is equally to blame.
A cautionary tale, well told, and a must-see for everyone who loves spell-binding traditional theatre.
CARR SAYS .... Class snobbery is brought to the forefront in Stephen Daldry’s vivid new production of An Inspector Calls.
Gone is the classic drawing room scenario, where Inspector Goole – not unlike Poirot or Miss Marple – confronts the well-to-do Birling family in their cosy home over the part they have played in a young woman’s death.
Instead we have all the fog and misery of Britain in 1912, with the cobbled streets and working class children ever present, playing or sometimes silently watching the other characters.
It brings the class divide into sharp focus as we see the Birling’s floral yellow drawing room – gaudy with pretensions - elevated several feet above the cobbled world outside.
As the dour Scottish Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan) arrives to question the family over the woman’s death, they are literally forced to step down from the elevated drawing room stage and confront him on the cobbled steps of reality.
Among a strong cast, I particularly liked Hamish Riddle as the foppish son Eric. Reckless and flamboyant, with his sister Sheila (Katherine Jack) he undergoes one of the biggest changes in the play
Geoff Leesley and Caroline Wildi are on form as intractable Mr and Mrs Birling - who are more worried about the danger to their own positions in society than any remorse over the young woman’s death.
Dark and tense, this charges forward the message of social responsibility with devastating impact as the stage literally erupts with the family’s ever changing circumstances.
One of the highlights of the theatre so far this year.
An Inspector Calls plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until February 27. See here for tickets.