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An Inspector Calls

Coventry Belgrade


An Inspector Calls opens with three children (Kiro Leadbetter, Shalondie Clarke and Zachary Craig-Arrol) cleverly locating us in the 1940s by use of costume, an incredibly loud radio and a brilliant haircut literally lifting the curtain on the recreation of Stephen Baldry’s 1992 ground-breaking production.

As the curtain lifts, Ian MacNeil’s incredible set is revealed. It deserves five stars on its own. A doll’s house perches precariously amid the rubble of war where an anachronistic Edwardian dinner party celebrates the engagement between Sheila Birling (Chloe Orrock) and Gerald Croft (Simon Cotton).

Also present are Sheila’s father, rich industrialist Arthur Birling (Jeffrey Harmer), his wife Sybil (Christine Kavanagh) charity worker, brother Eric (George Rowlands) student, and ‘maid’ Edna (Frances Campbell) are visited by Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan).

Inspector Goole has an amazing tale to tell, about a pretty young woman who has committed suicide in appalling circumstances, variously named as Eva Smith and Daisy Renton but known well to every member of the family.

J B Priestley's highly political play, written during the Second World War and first performed in Russia during 1945 gradually, one by one, shows the culpability of the family in the young woman’s death. It is gripping, as each in turn has to explain to the inspector how they knew the young woman and how their actions had consequences for her.

I loved the bit where the inspector puts his hat on the little boy’s head – swamping him but showing that nothing has changed, social justice is still a way off and to be judged by future generations.

The audience was interesting too. There was a vast number of schoolchildren and I’m informed this is a set text for GCSE English and that in itself is fascinating. There’s such a lot here to analyse.

This production brings out Priestley's political stance as a socialist and I couldn’t help thinking that George Bernard Shaw would have been proud of this play. The social justice message is brought to the fore, and as Gerald Croft attempts to excuse their behaviour by saying that the young woman might have been many different women, the point is cleverly made that, as my father might have put it, ‘there’s a lot of it about’.

Consequences are often meted out on the poorer, vulnerable members of society whose poverty allows fewer choices in life.

Jane Howard


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