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Review: An Inspector Calls at the New Theatre Cardiff

Did you study An Inspector Calls at school?

An Inspector Calls. Credit: Mark Douet

Stephen Daldry’s multi award-winning National Theatre production of JB Priestley’s classic thriller returns to the New Theatre Cardiff this week.

When you hear the name An Inspector Calls, it immediately conjures up memories of GCSEs and reading the book in school. Be it some time ago, this production has been reinvigorated for the current time and echoes the current political and social climate of today, making it relatable for today’s audience as a timeless classic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, let me bring you up to speed…

An Inspector Calls. Credit: Mark Douet

When Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan) arrives unexpectedly at the prosperous Birling family home, their peaceful dinner party and celebration of Sheila Birling (Evlynd Oyedokun) and Gerald Croft’s (Simon Cottom) engagement, is shattered by his investigation into the death of a young woman.

An Inspector Calls. Credit: Mark Douet

Although there is some mystery surrounding the inspector’s visit which doesn’t come to light until towards the end, there is less ghoulishness about Goole despite what his name may suggest. Brennan who has a string of successful productions under his belt is captivating and makes an excellent inspector, bringing moments of humour to his role as he questions the family.

His startling revelations shake the very foundations of the Birlings’ lives and challenge us all to examine our consciences. It does make you stop and think about our role in society and how our actions or in actions, including the things that we say or don’t say may profoundly affect others. It might be on the syllabus for many in the audience, but there are some very important life lessons in this that I’m sure doesn’t hurt to be reminded of.

An Inspector Calls. Credit: Mark Douet

I hadn’t realised what a starring role Sheila Birling plays in encouraging others to own up to their own responsibilities and ultimately take share in the role of the death of the young woman. Oyedokun is extremely talented and has proven credits behind her including parts in Midsummer Night’s Dream and is definitely one to watch.

An Inspector Calls. Credit: Mark Douet

The father and son relationship of Arthur Birling (Jeffrey Harmer) and Eric Birling (George Rowlands) is also fascinating to watch as events play out. Although quite humorous at times, there is a seriousness to all of this and it’s more in their hysterics when it dawns on them and what they did or didn’t do.

An Inspector Calls. Credit: Mark Douet

Stephen Daldry has quite literally lifted the words off the page of this classic thriller. The staging is a mechanical masterpiece in itself, so I’ll be careful not to give too much away. The chocolate box appearance and middle class setting quite literally spills open for the world to see – but it isn’t all that it seems as you will find out.

So whether or not you are currently studying An Inspector Calls or have done so previously, I’d encourage you to come and watch this magnificent production. If I had the opportunity to do so when I was studying, perhaps I would have received better grades. It certainly helped my understanding of the story, even if it was 20 something years too late.

Winner of 19 major awards and hailed as the theatrical event of its generation, An Inspector Calls has thrilled more than 5 million theatregoers worldwide and it’s not difficult to see why.

More relevant now than ever, this is a must-see for a whole new generation.

Ticket prices start from £16 with discounts for under 18s and student groups.

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes (no interval)

An Inspectors Calls production is currently showing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday, 22 October 2022 when it will continue its tour. To find out more and to book tickets, click here.