Having not done An Inspector Calls for GCSE, I was pretty excited to see this West-End production. To summarise the plot: Inspector Goole arrives unannounced at the Birling home, announcing that a girl has died that very afternoon, only reveal the family’s deepest darkest secrets one by one. But all is not what it seems…
I wanted to love it. On paper, it had everything – fantastic script, good staging, a lovely plot twist at the end – but it left me hollow. Without sounding too snobbish, it just didn’t feel as polished as the other West End productions I’ve had the opportunity to see – it was reaching for something much higher than the budget it had.
Acting wise, I truly believe Liam Brennan (Inspector Goole) carried the cast. His genuine outrage at the death of the young girl wholly convinced me, and his role as judge towards the crooked characters became something I held onto.
The special effects honestly made me laugh. At one moment the ‘house’ tilts to a diagonal, signalling the ruin of the family relationships that were solidly in place at the beginning of the evening. However, it felt cheap and superficial at the climax of the play. Granted, light and sound were professionally executed, and so for me there was a disconnect between this and the dramatic tilting of the house (accompanied with smashing tableware, no less).
Dramatic visionary also left much to be desired. In one scene an ensemble of WW1-clothed characters came onto stage and stay there for around five minutes. The dramatic effect of this moment was over in about ten seconds after which they simply became a melded part of the scene. To keep them on stage for this amount of time made no sense as there was no interaction or further dramatic development. The theatrical decisions made didn’t seem to make any sense which confused me more than it affected me.
Having said this, the suspense of the play kept it on the right side of entertaining. Although there was an added twenty minutes at the end of the play that I felt weren’t needed, as they discussed whether Inspector Goole was truly who he said he was, the pace throughout was steady. The actors knew where and when to hit their mark, showing their professionalism as stage actors.
All in all it was an entertaining show, but perhaps did not achieve the West-End production value it aimed for.
An Inspector Calls is playing at the Playhouse Theatre until 4 February. For more information and tickets, see the An Inspector Calls website.
Photo: Mark Douet