An Inspector Calls at the Churchill Theatre
As a teacher, I have long examined the original J.B Priestly epic play ‘An Inspector Calls’ with my pupils and was such very excited to have the opportunity to review Stephen Daldry’s adaptation shown at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley. The original aims to portray differences in social class, prevalent in Edwardian times. Focusing on the Birling family, the play attempts to expose the severity of hypocrisy, social and gender inequality and highlights the inevitable consequences of the selfish and reckless actions of the dismissive upper-class. Daldry aims to translate this by bringing the play into the 20th century and reconstructing a 1940’s war-time setting to convey a similar message. However, this new setting somewhat impeded the clarity with which the political message was originally intended.
When the curtain rises, lifted by a young child, it reveals the Burlington family crammed into a doll like Edwardian house, perched up high, purposefully concealed and speaking indiscernibly. Though intended to portray the juxtaposition between the power of the aristocracy and the confined space by which they are held, the setting and scenery detract from the power of the very messages on capitalism, gender and class divide that the original so succinctly delivers. I found that throughout the show, the attempts at metaphor often did more to harm the impact of the theme than to help.
The young children employed to depict the nature of war-time Britain was amateurish and unnecessary, however, collectively the cast were excellent and exuded chemistry. Chloe Orrock playing Shelia Birling captured the essence of the character extremely well, portraying much guilt and demonstrated an uprising attitude of the younger generation against capitalism at the time.
Occasional humorous rapport and comedic scenes, sometimes at odds with the character’s personality, encouraged prolonged laughter from a young audience that distracted from further lines and stole away some of the seriousness and sentiment about timeless social responsibility and a shared humanity.
The costumes were well received and mostly era-fitting, however, conflicting as women’s dress remained Edwardian whilst men’s attire was somewhat brought up to 1940s.
Personally due to my love of this play I recommend it is not missed as it resonates a very important timeless message that is still prevalent in society today, no matter how a director chooses to interpret and execute it.
Review by Lesley Howe
An Inspector Calls is running at the Churchill Theatre until 14th September. To find out more about this then visit their website.