Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls returned to Cardiff’s New Theatre on Tuesday evening and clearly had no trouble captivating the generations of people, young and old in the audience that watched it.
The action of An Inspector Calls is set at the home of the prosperous Birling family in the North Midlands town of Brumley during April 1912, Business owner Arthur Birling, along with his wife Sybil, their daughter Sheila and son Eric are celebrating Sheila’s engagement to Gerald Croft, heir to the most successful family business in the North of England. The celebrations are interrupted when the parlour maid, Edna announces the unexpected arrival of ‘Police Inspector Goole’.
Inspector Goole’s arrival at the Birling home is part of an inquiry into the death of a young woman. As he investigates, it becomes apparent that each person present has associations with the dead girl that link them to the tragedy. Goole’s revelations not only shatter the moral high ground that the Birling family inhabit, but also challenge the audience to look at their own conscience.
An Inspector Calls forms part of the GCSE Curriculum and had clearly drawn in a healthy number of young students to Cardiff’s New Theatre. The responses from the audience throughout the plays 1 hour, 45 minutes were far from muted. Cries of exasperation when a character gets slapped or pushed, gelled with audible giggles or laughter in the plays lighter moments. Such responses from the audience contributed to the plays atmospherics and made this presentation of An Inspector Calls very much alive.
Of course, the energy is generated from the stage, beginning with three unnamed children playing around with an old wireless set before the curtain pulls back to reveal a dark looming landscape with the Birling family home in the forefront.
An Inspector Calls possibly asks more questions than provides answers as it mixes suspense with surrealism. It doesn’t take long for the upper class world of Jeffrey Harmer’s pompous Arthur Birling, Christine Kavanagh as his snobbish wife, Chloe Orrock and Ryan Saunders as their spoilt offspring and Alasdair Buchan’s prospective son in law to be rocked out of their comfort zone by Liam Brennan’s magnificent but slightly unorthodox Inspector Goole.
As Emma Cater’s ever present chamber maid observes along with the audience, Goole penetrates the very souls of his suspects, utilising every inch of the stage and at one point a balcony in the auditorium to make his investigation. No soul is left without examination and it seems there maybe more to Inspector Goole than meets the eye,
75 years on from the stage debut of JB Priestley’s original play, An Inspector Calls remains a lively piece of theatre and will certainly provoke a lot of conversation from those who witness it.
An Inspector Calls runs at Cardiff’s New Theatre until March 14, 2020.