When Inspector Goole arrives unexpectedly at the prosperous Birling family home, their peaceful dinner party is shattered by his investigations into the death of a young woman. His startling revelations shake the very foundations of their lives and challenge all to examine their consciences.
A slanted stage floor gives an optical illusion to the eye; a tall slanted lamppost sits at the front, whilst a smaller one next to a house with a few lights on at the back. A large Alice in Wonderland-style house, a drawing room cocoon, encompasses the centre where the Birling family reside. Outside, Inspector Goole looms, looking larger than life, with smoking billowing around him and Stephen Warbeck’s melancholy music and Sebastian Frost’s sound design adding to the uneasy atmosphere.
Stephen Daldry’s direction distorts eyelines and regularly breaks the fourth wall, particularly in Goole’s plea for compassion, demanding we stand as a community. Else destruction will follow, as demonstrated wonderfully as the Birling house comes crashing down, smashing their valuables and the family stagger in the debris, their fine clothes and looks blacked and soiled. The message seems as relevant in the world today as ever it did.
Liam Brennan is magnetic as Goole, easily commanding the stage and demanding the undivided attention of characters and audience alike. Carmela Corbett, as the daughter, had a suitable self-satisfied naivety air yet became slightly melodramatic at points. This slightly melodramatic undertone also affected Clive Francis and Barbara Marten as Mr and Mrs Birling, as well as touching Hamish Riddle’s rebel without a cause Eric Birling. Matthew Douglas gave a charming turn as Gerald Croft and Diana Payne-Myers’s as the Birlings maid, Edna, was subtle and humorous.
Playwright: J. B. Priestley
Director: Stephen Daldry
Set Designer: Ian MacNeil
Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher
Composer: Stephen Warbeck
Sound Designer: Sebastian Frost
Cast: Liam Brennan, Carmela Corbett, Hamish Riddle, Clive Francis, Barbara Marten, Matthew Douglas, Diana Payne-Myers
Photo: Tristram Kenton