REVIEW: AN INSPECTOR CALLS @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
🎭 An Inspector Calls
📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Tuesday 7th March 2023
A THEATRICAL MASTERPIECE
Playing all this week at Theatre Royal Plymouth is the National Theatre's landmark production of the J B Priestley classic An Inspector Calls. I have always wanted to see this play on the stage ever since I studied it at school and I am a great lover of the old black and white film version, so I was excited to receive an invitation to review the show.
Directed by Stephen Daltry, this tour celebrates 30 years since the production was first performed and it did not disappoint.
The curtain raises gently and rather ominously to reveal the house, with the action happening inside. You can only see whats happening through the windows but you hear everything and occasionally see the characters step outside. What you do see however is the world outside the house and the poverty others live in while the Birling family live in wealthy privilege.
The staging was not what I had expected and I actually found it rather interesting. The house opened up to reveal the inside, although most of the action happened in front of this set, even though they technically were still in the house and the Inspector never entered the interior set. The Inspector entered through the auditorium and stood slightly inconspicuously to begin with.
As the story unfolded, the world of the central family came crashing down both figuratively and literally as the house set collapsed, sending crockery smashing to the ground. As the family then rather delusionally think their status and superiority has been restored, slowly the house resets.
The part of Inspector Goole is triumphantly portrayed by Liam Brennan who brings real mystery and intrigue to the character. He gave a very competent and believable performance and got the audience on side instantly.
Arthur Birling is the head of the family and is played by Jeffrey Harmer. He was very good for the most part but my only criticism is that he had a tendency to speak very fast which meant you had to really listen to avoid missing what he was saying.
His wife Sybil was played by Christine Kavanagh who was wonderfully unlikeable! She gave one of my favourite performances of the night and gave me exactly what I wanted from the character.
Chloe Orrock played their daughter Sheila who perhaps has the best story arc and character development. At times her performance was verging on over-the-top but perhaps this is what made her character so endearing. Her character broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience at times which was unexpected but worked really well.
Inspector Goole also directed his final speech to the audience, rather than the family.
Her fiancé is Gerald and was portrayed at this performance by Maceo Cortezz who had fantastic characterisation throughout.
The youngest member of the family is Eric and was played by George Rowlands who gave the standout performance of the night. The emotion he put into his performance was utterly believable and was actually moving to watch.
The interaction between Rowlands as Eric and Harmer as Arthur was spectacular and showed an interesting dynamic between father and son.
Frances Campbell was on stage throughout the performance as Edna, although she hardly spoke! Edna is the maid to the family and Campbell is wonderful in the role. For such a small character she had a real stage presence and it was interesting to glance at her throughout and see what she was doing.
Something else unexpected was that there was an ensemble. Because it's a story of a family and the Inspector, I didn't expect to see anyone else! The ensemble make up 'The Children' and 'The Community' and their presence is minimal but impactful. What was interesting was how the Inspector said 'we' rather than 'I' when the ensemble were on stage, showing how the reputation of the family was shattered in the community.
The Community is actually made up of local people which adds something special to the production.
I loved everything about this play from the staging and costumes, to the music and the lighting. Everything came together wonderfully to deliver a real theatrical masterpiece that was a privilege to witness.
The only thing that slightly ruined my experience was that I was sat right in the middle of a huge group of school students who spoke loudly and rustled sweet wrappers throughout the entire performance, which was extremely distracting. There were a few adults amongst them, but unfortunately not enough to keep them under control. I do not allow such things to affect my star rating but it is always worth mentioning when I experience bad theatre etiquette such as this.
An Inspector Calls is playing at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 11th May and there is limited availability remaining. Head to www.theatreroyal.com to book tickets. You don't want to miss this!
If you want to find out more information on the show itself then you can find it at www.aninspectorcalls.com where you can also find a complete list of upcoming tour dates.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being open, honest and free from influence.
My tickets for this performance were gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to the Press Night to review the production. The fact that my tickets were gifted played no part in my star rating for this review.
Inspector Goole: Liam Brennan
Sybil Birling: Christine Kavanagh
Arthur Birling: Jeffrey Harmer
Gerald Croft: Marceo Cortezz (Understudy)
Sheila Birling: Chloe Orrock
Eric Birling: George Rowlands
Edna: Frances Campbell
Children: Rory Ferrier
The Community: Ben Anderson
1 Hour 50 minutes with no interval
The mission of Theatre Royal Plymouth is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West.