An Inspector Calls - Review
An Inspector Calls was bound to restore my faith in theatre mystery/drama after my recent disappointment - how could it fail?
For about fifteen years now my son has been my murder mystery buddy. Since the tender age of seven I've carefully guided his reading list through Miss Marple and Poirot, Jekyll and Hyde, Sherlock Holmes and many more drama classics. His siblings didn't show enough eagerness or commitment to join in my murder mystery 'clique'. In hindsight it was inevitable that I'd write one (or several, it's to be hoped). Over the years, whenever we could, we cemented this shared love with trips to the theatre.There was a nice symmetry to the fact that, on this particular excursion, it was my son who invited me after he'd been offered discounted tickets through knowing one of the actors in the show. The legacy has paid off it seems!
After a recent disappointment I needed a known classic to restore my faith in theatrical mystery. A nocturnal read of the text of An Inspector Calls after watching the TV adaptation meant that the stage was set (if you'll pardon the pun) when the flyer from The Regent Theatre advertised that the play would soon be performed. I've seen it several times and it never fails to disappoint me.
I've seen this play performed with a similar stage set before, with the toppling house etc, but it never ceases to amaze me how each director manages to bring something new to the table. Street Urchins began the play, leading the audience to appreciate the pathos of the play before even the curtain was up. Aligning the domestic help and Inspector Goole at ground level with these street children, setting them apart from the dinner party, made excellent use of the stage too. Towards the end of the play, when the supposed ultimate culprit of the tragedy (the father of the unborn child) was to be publicly shamed, a crowd of what I assumed to be passengers waiting for a train, meant that the numbers at street level were now stacked against the offending overlords - lending weight to the Inspectors argument.
One new interpretation to the staging of this play, that particularly impressed me, was when Inspector Goole shouts, 'Stop!' In this particular interpretation he indicated this command - not to the dinner party, as I expected, but to the audience. The stage lights were dramatically reduced and the Inspector directed his speech to the audience. It was so arresting! By doing so he drew us to the very heart of the story and made us all take stock. Well done!
Our enjoyment of the evening was dampened only by the fact that there are still some, despite years and years of getting to know about this, that still haven't located the 'silent' function on their mobile phones and by a couple seated just in front of us that felt it incumbent upon them to make perceived learned comments throughout the play. While I accept that the plot may be new to some, lets face it - the play has done the rounds and we know what's going to happen next. The beauty doesn't necessarily lie in suspense and unknowing - but I still don't want you to tell me! After all the tension has built and then released the telephone rings… what I DO NOT want to hear is (in not particularly muted tones), "That'll be the Inspector, that will - the real one." Good Grief!
I do need to express my opinion here, that it's too easy to take home sweeping ideals without fully thinking everything through - you can't base your life ethos on a play. However, nobody can doubt that there was, and still is, much to take to heart. It's perhaps particularly fitting to remind you that the only reason we were able to enjoy this play (family budget being tight) was because my son, after years of me taking him, now returned the favour and cashed in on some tickets from a friend who was in a position to be generous. Rather the whole point, I think!