Last night I went to see An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley at The Wyndham theatre on Charing Cross Road. The event was organised by a friend and I had expected some kind of “Who Done it” but this was not to be.
The play is directed Stephen Daldry and opens with a bunch of urchins faffing around on stage. One kicks an old radio and the scene begins proper. The curtain opens on a stunning set. An old English town house tall, against a smokey backdrop. Inside there are people talking, a dinner party is taking place, a family in evening dress. The set design is by Ian MacNeil and this combined with Lighting by Rick Fisher create a impression which is almost magic realism. An engagement is announced and toasts drunk. The gentlemen retire outside to smoke.
Of course an inspector calls and relates a story of a young woman who has committed suicide by drinking bleach. The woman had been lower class and the family can see no reason why this sad but apparently unrelated event should upset their evening. However, as each of the family express their self riotous indignation, it becomes apparent that all of them have had dealings with the young woman and the inspector insists that blame is apportioned. For some reason Nicholas Woodeson was not available to play Inspector Goole and so the understudy, Jeremy Spriggs, stepped in. While one could not fault his lines he failed to bring an authoritative presence to the part and his frequent position at the far left of the stage did not help.
Set between the wars, the play evolves into a morality tale, a spotlight on a family representing a ruling class divorced from and exploiters of the common people. A fascinating twist leaves us all considering our own actions.
Written by J B Priestley
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Design by Ian MacNeil
Lighting Design by Rick Fisher
Music by Stephen Warbeck
Associate Director, Julian Webber
Nicholas Woodeson as Inspector Goole
Sandra Duncan as Mrs Birling
Marianne Oldham as Sheila Birling
David Roper as Mr Birling
Diana Payne Myers as Edna
Robin Whiting as Eric Birling
Timoth Watson as Gerald Croft