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21 January 2012


An Inspector Calls
UK Tour directed by Stephen Daldry
Theatre Royal, Norwich
Saturday 21st January 2012

Staging a well-known piece, such as An Inspector Calls, in a new and exciting way, without losing the power and impact intended by its original mid-20th century playwright, requires brave decisions and an audacious imagination.  Stephen Daldry and his team display this in spades in this multi-award winning production, which was first staged at the National Theatre in 1992 and has since enjoyed several seasons in the West End.  It is visiting Norwich on its eighth national tour which runs until June 2012.

The Edwardian setting has been shrewdly compounded with the setting of the first ever performance year of 1945, with high production values.  The Birling’s stylised dolls-house home set high on the stage above a Blitz-torn street, with real rain adding gravitas to the street children’s games. 

We hear the family’s early dinner conversation literally behind closed doors, making occasional acquaintance with family members as they step onto the balcony, the scale such that they are grotesquely outsized - an immediate caricature.  Inspector Goole’s silent wait by the lamppost, his shadow cast long and high against the side of the house, created an atmospheric impact with those opening minutes that did not abate throughout.

The action handles some intense emotion, making you feel both distaste and a lamentable empathy for the succession of guilty reactions exhibited by the accused characters, despite their increasingly shocking revelations.  There but for the grace of God. 

All of the extended family members were handled with immense skill and conviction.  Sheila Birling (Kelly Hotten) is especially engaging, with the reaction we all believe we are being asked to take away – a shocking lesson to nurture the milk of human kindness within ourselves.  However, it is the magnetic intensity of the electric Inspector Goole (Tom Mannion) about whom we are left wondering.  Who is he?  And most importantly, does it matter?

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