USER (08Feb05): An Inspector Calls
Birmingham Rep, Monday 7 February 2005
This production has been on tour since early 2003. Such is the popularity of this J B Priestley classic that 2 years on it is back in Birmingham at the Rep and still packing them in! The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation and that special magic that goes with first nights and classic thrillers. Stephen Daldry’s award winning National Theatre production which dates back to a decade ago, has a more symbolic and impressionistic setting than for example the film version with Alastair Sim and works beautifully. The small child, at the opening of the play, tugging at the heavy stage curtain trying to get in but failing to do so. The house in which the rather grand Birlings live, rather nut like and once cracked open exposing some pretty terrible hypocrisy all works wonderfully! The cobbled street on an incline, which seemed to move things off centre worked to create an unreal and yet recognisable environment. Clearly all is not what it first seems…
The main players and there are familiar faces, live out the drama with passion and individually are highly believable and compelling. They are without doubt assisted by both the eerie settings, immaculate costumes; the ladies dresses are beautiful, atmospheric lighting and clever positioning of actors. It simply works and the audience applause at the close demonstrated that once again.
“An Inspector Calls” is as relevant today as when it was first written and part of the impact is that you can still relate to both the behaviour of the characters and their beliefs. The comfortable, middle class Birlings lives are thrown into chaos by the arrival of the mysterious Inspector Goole played convincingly by Nicholas Day. He is the kind of Inspector that will get right inside the case and force the characters to face their actions. David Roper an imposing figure of a man is impressive as the pompous Arthur Birling and projected himself well. Sandra Duncan is equally well cast as his haughty wife and together they play a thoroughly immoral pair who could try and get themselves out of anything! Their daughter Sheila, the only really good one in the family is played sympathetically by Katie McGuinness. Her drink sodden brother Eric is played with conviction and at times great hysteria by Nick Barber. Mark Healy a well-known TV face is tall, dashing and believable as Gerald Croft the fiancé of Sheila. Elizabeth Ross plays Edna the maid, a lovely character piece and another example of “us and them”.
I enjoyed the evening immensely and can only wish the tour all the success it deserves and it now continues throughout the UK until at least the end of June 2005!