REVIEW: An Inspector Calls at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford
PUBLISHED: 11:40 15 September 2015
J B Priestley’s 1940’s play brought to life at the Orchard Theatre, running until September 19
Stephen Daldry’s production of An Inspector Calls started its tour of the UK at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre, running until September 19.
Since its opening night in 1992, the production has received wide-spread praise, with this being its 25th tour including tours as far as Australia.
The play bolsters an experienced and adept cast including ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Mr Selfridge’ actor Tim Woodward as Mr Birling, as well as a mix of talent across theatre, film and television.
An Inspector Calls follows the interrogation of an upper-class family at their home by the mysterious Inspector Goole, played by experienced Shakespearean actor, Liam Brennan.
Director in the world of film and theatre, Daldry’s interpretation of J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is innovative and intimate, with a clever dolls house inspired setting, opening onto the staged streets below.
The divisive stage production immediately presents the play’s central themes of class divide.
Opening on a closed off house, the audience is left with the voices of those within the home, and the bewildered stares of children playing in the raining streets outside.
The start of the play, like the rest, is intricately laden with all the social commentary Priestley originally put into the play, but with Daldry’s updated presence of the stage itself, the stage truly comes to life.
As the story, and house, unfolds to the audience, we see the well-choreographed interrogation by the play’s titular Inspector Goole toward the well-off Birling family.
Set in 1912, and written in 1945, Priestley’s social commentary on community and responsibility was first performed in the Soviet Union in 1945, then in Britain in 1946.
Priestley’s success came not only as a playwright but as a wartime radio presenter for the BBC, for which it was estimated 40 per cent of the adult population was tuning in.
Time spent on the frontline during the First World War, no doubt affected Priestley’s decision to base this play two years before the outbreak of the Great War.
Avoiding spoilers, the play culminates in a warning to the audience of the dangers of living in a world with such a strong class divide as shown in the play.
It seems An Inspector Calls now belongs as much to Daldry as Priestley.
While Priestley wrote the play at the close of the Second World War, Daldry’s production and direction have helped bring the same script through the decades and translate into the 21st century.
An Inspector Calls is continuing its tour of the UK and will return to Kent in January when it plays the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.
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