Review: An Inspector Calls

The doors of The Regent theatre opened tonight onto the dark cobbled street of the famous J B Priestley play, An Inspector Calls. Now in its 77th year since it opened in 1945, it still retains its socio-political relevance today, putting its lens over issues such as class, age, gender and social responsibility.

Set in 1912, the stage opens on a dinner gathering in the Birling household, daughter Sheila now newly engaged to Gerald Croft. The dinner dispensed with, the ladies retire while the men drink port and enjoy cigars. The fateful announcement to the household from Edna, that ‘an Inspector Goole is here to see you’ will change the people inside that night.

Reporting the suicide of a young lady called Eva Smith, Goole is there to learn of the events leading up to her death and how the fate of Eva is wound within the moral and physical actions of the Birling’s and their daughters’ fiancee, Croft.

The scenery is fantastic with the Birling household sat elevated from the rest of the set, front and centre, in a subtle reminder to all that the inhabitants are a class above the rest. Whilst they talk from the elevated position, they have to descend the stairs to interact with Inspector Goole below on the ground along with the lower classes milling about.

As each of the Birling household are made to see the error of their ways, thus each of them descend the stairs to be at equal level to Goole.

Goole is brilliantly portrayed by Liam Brennan, his character at first eerily stood outside the Birling’s in a hat and long coat in the dark street, then develops into a social champion, dissecting the actions of each of the household, laying bare before them what part they played in Eva’s tragedy.

Jeffrey Harmer is fantastically played Arthur Birling, master of the house, nearing a Knighthood and representation of industry and commerce. Faced with the realisation of his actions, he does his level best to shield the other members of the household and his passionate dialogue is enacted with aplomb.

Evelyne Oyedokun brilliantly portrays Sheila, daughter of the household, whose self-appointed princess of the house was matched in her attire. Sheila grows as the play goes on, acknowledging her actions and showing great sensibility in the latter stages. Her fiancee Gerald Croft is played by Simon Cotton who gave a great performance going through the emotional journey that Croft undertakes throughout (any more would give spoilers).

Christine Kavanagh and George Rowlands play mother Sybil Birling and soppy son Eric Birling and are great during their volatile interactions with eachother as the play progresses.

The play was brilliant, the cast phenomenal and the set astounding. The whole audience were captivated and you can almost guarantee many a vibrant conversation will be had in English classrooms tomorrow around the city, with the many enthusiastic GCSE students who were in attendance tonight which was really great to see.

An Inspector Calls is on until Saturday with matinee performances on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday as well as a Touch Tour on Thursday. Click here for the latest information

Photo Credit: Mark Douet