Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Family sparkle under the spotlight


INSPECTOR CALLING: John Lucock, as former Mayor Arthur Birling, puts a comforting arm round Karen Whittingham, playing his daughter, under the watchful gaze of Frank Martino, as Inspector Goole, in the impressive Dudley Little Theatre production  

An Inspector Calls

Dudley Little Theatre

Netherton Arts Centre


AN evening of excellent theatre finds five members of a family group made to question their philosophies and morals at the behest of a mysterious visitor.

The Theatre Guide does not list it as one of J B Priestley's time plays, but this is a story which nevertheless leads us through the tragedy of a young woman's death before telling us that it did not happen until after five people had admitted their share of responsibility – and that seems like something to do with time.

The production, directed by Maurice Felton and David Hutchins, leads us unerringly from the happiness of a family party to the realisation that everyone there has in some way contributed to the death – and that people are responding in different ways. They are responses that range from that of Arthur Birling, former Mayor of Brumley, who mainly foresees the imminent scandal as the end of his hopes for a knighthood, to the anguish of his daughter Sheila, the only one who actually faces up to the unpleasant reality. 

Throughout, it has pace and passion. John Lucock, as Birling, does some furious finger-pointing and rightly fails to persuade us that we ought to be on his side. As his wife, Jenny Pearson meets the inspector with careless abandon that is fortified by her self-righteousness before she crumbles onto her knees in the face of all the questions. 


Sheila (Karen Whittingham) is the only one who recognises reality. She does so in shrill indictments of the others, coming at them from beneath a tsunami of a hairstyle, all mighty rolling waves that hint at something unstoppable. And indeed, she does tend to prevail in her various encounters – unlike her brother Eric (James Silvers), the weak one of the family, prone to take refuge in the bottle and liable to lash out only when goaded beyond endurance. 

Tony Stamp is Gerald, Sheila's fiancé, who finds himself just as much involved as the rest of them, giving Inspector Goole (Frank Martino) a nap hand of nervous, agitated suspects to aggravate at will. This is a demanding role and an interesting portrayal – courteous but confident, the voice raised to good effect when it is deemed necessary. 

Emily Woolman is Edna the maid, apt to linger on the fringes of the excitement if she enters at an inappropriate moment, and otherwise observed for much of the time attentively performing her domestic duties beyond the sitting-room wall. 

The production has important lighting effects that interestingly add to the air of unreality in which Priestley has dressed his play. So we see a succession of “suspects” bathed in an arc of extra illumination as they define the various roles that preceded the tragedy of a luckless young woman. It is an evening of sterling worth, a credit to everyone contributing to it. To 13.3.10.

John Slim


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