Reviewed by Kathryn Harrison
Last night my mum and I visited Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre to watch An Inspector Calls. It’s always a pleasure to visit the Playhouse Theatre, a Grade ll listed building in Williamson Square.
An Inspector calls is a classic thriller, written by J B Priestley that has been entertaining audiences since it’s West End debut in 1946. Director Stephen Daldry breathed new life into the production in 1992 when he directed the play for National Theatre. Nearly thirty years later it is this production that we were to watch.
The story centres on the well to do Birling family. One evening as the family are enjoying a celebratory dinner at home an inspector, Inspector Goole, comes to call, he is investigating the death of a young lady and has questions for each member of the Birling family. By the time Inspector Goole leaves the family have been turned upside down by his questions. Liam Brennan was superb as Inspector Goole, engaging with the audience and showing Goole’s increasing frustration with the evasive elder members of the Birling family.
Inspector Goole begins questioning the arrogant head of the family, Arthur Birling, played by Jeffrey Harmer. It soon becomes clear though that the other members of the family are also under suspicion. Christine Kavanagh as the mother of the family Sybil Birling and Alasdair Buchan playing Gerald Croft, the fiancé of the Birling’s daughter are both dismissive of the inspector and find his questions tiresome. However, Gerald Crofts fiancée Sheila Birling, played by Chloe Orrock, along with her brother Eric, played by Ryan Saunders, are more open to the inspector’s inquiries creating a divide within the family. All of the six actors playing these main characters were superb creating tension and drama that sucked the audience into the story. For me however I was engraved by Emma Cater playing the Birling’s servant Edna. Although Edna had very limited dialogue her face and actions mirrors the emotions and tensions happening within the story with full effect, she was mesmerising to watch.
This play is full of unexpected twists and turns that often blind-sided me as someone who had no idea of the story before entering the theatre. Another twist of the evening was when, twenty minutes into the performance the smoke alarms in the theatre went off and the whole building had to be evacuated, cast, crew and audience! The staff at the playhouse were absolutely brilliant at calmly getting everyone out safely, keeping us informed when they could and ushering everyone back in after a short while. For some companies this could have ruined the whole performance however the cast were true professionals, picking the play up just where they had been interrupted and managing to regain the audience’s attention almost immediately. Then due to the disturbance they ploughed straight through the play, forgoing an interval. A real show of skill and stamina.
Whilst this play is set in 1912 the themes of the story still ring true today more than ever, evidenced by this sell out run at the playhouse. I really enjoyed this performance and it left me with a lot to think about.
An Inspector Calls is at the Liverpool Playhouse from 4-8 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.everymanplayhouse.com or call the box office on 0151 709 4776
Liverpool Playhouse, Williamson Square, Liverpool, L1 1EL | 0151 709 4776