An Inspector Calls is a play that will remind many British 20-somethings of their A-Level English Literature classes. Mine was unusual, however, in that we didn’t study this play – but I heard many of my friends lamenting over it! Unexposed as I was, when I was offered the opportunity to see it this week at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh I was more than happy to!
The play is 1 hour and 45 minutes long and runs without an interval, something I was initially unsure about. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t really notice the runtime, as I was too engaged with the play to think about it! Premiering in 1945, the play is set in 1912 in the Birling’s family home on the evening of their daughter’s engagement. Arthur Birling is a wealthy local businessman and politician, who opens the play by telling his tales of privilege to his son and son-in-law to be.
They are quickly interrupted by the mysterious Inspector Goole who is investigating the suicide of a young woman that afternoon in the local infirmary. The family are immediately very defensive but this does not deter the Inspector who calmly questions each member of the family and brings the story to life.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about this production was the impressive set design. Iain McNeill has constructed a set that feels doll-house-esque through its details and the way the home opens up after the first scene. Before the house opened up, I was a little apprehensive, as I was sat on the upper circle and therefore couldn’t see into the house. Once the house opened up, however, this was not a problem at all.
Without giving the story away, it is a mysterious tale that comments satirically on class and the fault in people’s actions. Liam Brennan’s Inspector Goole is masterfully performed and he provides many of the comedic moments of the show with his sarcastic comments and asides to the audience. As a morality play, it couldn’t be more relevant in today’s political and social climate. Refreshingly, some characters changing through the play and realising their wrongdoing and calling for a fairer, more humane world.
The elements of this play came together in a stunning way and I would definitely recommend this as a show about more than your English Literature A-Level!