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Review: An Inspector Calls (Theatre Royal Brighton)

As I sit, with my notepad at the ready, to take in this theatrical spectacle, a lady sat next to me asks if I am studying the play for GCSE. I shake my head with embarrassment and tell her that I am. IN FACT. A soon-to-be university graduate (sassy hair flick). You see, An Inspector calls, by J.B Priestly, haunts much of my generation as a reminder of the dreaded GCSE English exams. This production however, is anything but one to be dreaded. Director, Stephen Daldry, sets out to excite the audience with his revival of An Inspector Calls, and he definitely delivers! Running at 1 hour and 45 minutes, this play captures the audience endlessly: with the music, by Stephen Warbeck, the set, by Ian MacNeil and the acting from all the cast.

The main feature of the set is a doll-house cross-section of the Birling’s dining room. MacNeil is to be commended for the design, not only for creating a visually stunning set, but also for positioning it on a raised platform, which, for me, seems a symbol of the societal hierarchy of the play. Inspector Goole, played by Liam Brennan, is an imposing figure. Armed with the intention to pop the Birling’s upper-class bubble by forcing them to step down from the, upstage, safe-haven of their dining room, to confront the suicide of Eva Smith, downstage, and their role in her death. The cloudy sky cyclorama for the backdrop of the play also presents a perfect pathetic fallacy for the turn of events that occurs to the Birling’s and Gerald Croft. The attention to visual detail is outstanding, from the downpours of rain, pyrotechnics and set, this is a treat for all on-lookers.

Brennan, as Inspector Goole, sends shivers down spines with his presence during the play. Whether it is standing by the ends of the aisles amongst the audience, treating us as if we are, too, inspecting the Birling’s as interviewers, or whether it is questioning the family in his relentless manner; Brennan’s performance remains focused and captivating. Chloe Orrock, as Sheila Birling, is also commendable. Though she plays the deluded and naïve young women at the start, her character develops seamlessly to show she has a deeper understanding of her responsibility within society. Her efforts to persuade her narrow-minded parents comes across convincingly. Overall, all the actors are to be praised for their flawless performances and detailed characterisation.

Priestley’s play translates almost too well to today’s society. Though it was first performed 75 years ago the relevance in regard to the concept of community is huge, suggesting that we must put ourselves in other’s shoes in order to empathise with the people around us. This couldn’t have come to audiences at a more appropriate time, as stories relating to mental health awareness and suicide prevention are consistently in the news. This play is one to see, not only as wonderful entertainment, but also to realise the responsibility we hold, and how our words and actions can psychologically effect those around us. Go and see it while you can!

An Inspector Calls is on at Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday 29th February. Tickets available here-

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